4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!" Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!" The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Introductory Prayer: ChChrist, Son of God, I know through faith that you came to conquer sin and drive out the Evil One. I know through experience that when I hold onto you I can overcome his influence. Your presence and your grace give me hope that today I can be faithful to you and so eventually come to be with you in heaven. I want to love you as you deserve, and I want to spread to others the good news of your redeeming love.
Petition: Jesus, help me to believe with all my heart in your power to heal me of my sin. Give me confidence to always trust in you and your power.
1. His Way of Teaching. Jesus teaches with authority, not as the scribes. The scribes did their best, but they were limited. They were men, trying to understand and explain a revelation that was not yet complete. That changed with Christ. He not only speaks of God, he is God; he not only explains revelation, he is the definitive revelation of God’s love. As he would say later, “he knows of what he is speaking” since he is God and comes from God. He has been at the Father’s side from all eternity. He has come to teach us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. No-one else can give us the truth about ourselves or our purpose in life. Nevertheless, the temptation is always there to listen to other voices and make our choices based on short-term feelings and plans. It is in prayer that we can renew our decision to let our lives be guided always by his words and example.
2. His power. Jesus commands the evil one, who submits to him. The evil one is silenced and chased out by a mere word from Christ. Not only that, but in the presence of Christ, it is the evil one who trembles and fears. If sin is at the root of so much evil in life, the fundamental answer to this evil has to be the presence of Christ in the world, in our life and through our life. There are some demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting, for prayer and fasting empty us of ourselves and fill us with Him. So often we worry and fear, and consequently strive to live our Christian life always on the defensive and in fear. It is true that we are nothing, but it is also true that Christ has conquered. Be not afraid! We must not be afraid to strive to be what Christ made us in Baptism: his heralds. We must have the confidence to say (and mean it) with St Paul, I can do all in the one who strengthens me.
3. The Evil I Can’t Overcome. We all experience some area of our life in which we don’t seem to be able to make any progress despite our best efforts. It may be a habit I am trying to overcome, or a renewed direction I want to give to my life, or and increase in generosity…, and I keep falling back into self-centeredness. It is good to reflect on what may be wrong, but doing so in the context of Christ’s power as shown in his curing of the sick. There are some that tell us to show our faith and trust by being passive and knowing “he will take care of things”, but that is not exactly what we see in the Gospel. When he cures the lame, we don’t see them waiting for proof that they are cured before trying to get up and walk, but it is rather by getting up and walking that they show they are cured. Spiritual progress begins with God’s grace, but it becomes a reality in my life when I act under the influence of that grace, when I do what I know I should because I know he is helping me, and not waiting for it to become easy or otherwise evident before acting. We have to let go of our fears, trust in God, and act based on our trust.
Conversation: Speak that word of life, Lord. Free me from the power of the evil one. Do not let him run my life or keep me from your love. Give me your grace and I will be satisfied.
1. Can I really say that I try to follow Christ in everything?
2. Am I living my Christian life on the defensive, in fear?
3. Is there any area of my life I have given up on? What am I willing to do to make my prayers come true?