4TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B]
THEME: HE SPOKE WITH AUTHORITY
BY: Bishop Gerald Musa
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”, says William Arthur Ward, author of Fountains of Faith which contains inspirational Maxims.
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The life story of Jesus shows he was a teacher with a difference. He spoke in such a way that educated people were not disappointed with his lack of depth and the uneducated were not isolated by his bombastic, flowery words and abstract ideas. Rather, his listeners were astonished by his sagacity (wisdom), because he spoke with a charismatic authority, which held his listeners spellbound (Mark 1:22). An Ethiopian proverb conveys an enduring truth which says “A well-spoken word is like a fruitful tree.”
Jesus did not speak like the scribes. The scribes spoke extensively about the letter of the law and rituals, but Jesus’ words were more profound because they dwelt on the spirit of the law and the Gospel of love and salvation. He was not just an ordinary public speaker or master of rhetoric, but His words had depth and so he still invites his followers to a depth of the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 1:33). His words were amazing and full of power and with these words, he inspired radical change of hearts, with these words he brought healing and with these powerful words he cast out and expelled demons. His words just made a deep impression on his listeners, because they are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus is the model teacher as he speaks to his followers saying “Learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). He was different from the scribes because he was authentic and he lived what he preached. He talked the talk and walked the walk.
A long time ago, Moses prophesied about a great and final prophet (eschatological prophet) who would come and speak on God’s behalf (mediator of God’s word). He will speak with Divine authority and “I will put my words into his mouth,” says the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:18). This prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. He confirmed this fact in speech, “I have not spoken on my authority. My Father commanded me what I should say” (John 8:28).
Jesus handed over the baton of teaching ministry to his Apostles. Just like Jesus, St. Paul, one of the distinguished and erudite teachers spoke authoritatively about salient issues of life including marriage and celibacy. For example, in some passages he extols the beauty of marriage when he says, let every man have his wife, and let every woman have her husband (1 Corinthians 7:2); In another passage, he speaks on the advantages of staying unmarried (celibacy) for the sake of the kingdom. The Apostle loves to take the bull by the horns when it comes to addressing controversial and confusing topics. He knew the expectations of society, which were sometimes in conflict with the time-tested values of the gospel. The society expects everyone to marry, but Paul authoritatively declares that not everyone must marry. According to Paul, the unmarried state helps one to focus on his work with total devotion and complete surrender. On the other hand, the married state draws people into an aggressive quest for money, wife/husband devotion and a preoccupation with the things of this world (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
The Apostles passed on the responsibility of teaching to their successors – The Holy Father, the Pope together with the college of Bishops. These leaders of the Church are officially called the Magisterium (teaching authority). They draw their source of teaching from Sacred Scriptures and historical practice/experience (tradition) of the Church community. The Church is not where anything goes or where anyone wakes up and begins to teach anything, but the Church has standards, such as the Universal Creed (Credo) and standards on matters concerning faith and morals.
Today, we are in such a chaotic world where people want to explore exotic teachings and doctrines. G.K. Chesterton says, “The modern mind will accept nothing on authority, but will accept anything on no authority. Say that the Bible or the Pope says so and it will be dismissed without further examination. But preface your remark with ‘I think I heard somewhere,’ or, try but fail to remember the name of some professor who might have said ‘such-and-such’ and it will be immediately accepted as an unshakable fact.” We are in a world that has little regard for authority, and much less regard for divine authority. We pray for preachers, teachers, parents, leaders and all people who are in positions of authority. May they exercise their teaching authority, like Jesus, with a sense of humility.
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