4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): The Power to Act
(Adults, you could begin by reading the entire Gospel passage so that the child hears it once in its entirety before we think about the parts.)
Last week we heard about Jesus collecting disciples to travel with him. In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear about what happens in the first place they go.
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day of the week. It is the day of the week that is holy for the Jewish people because in sacred scripture the Sabbath is the day that God rests from the work of creating. In creating our beautiful world, God just has to speak a word and the universe begins to form. God speaks and it is done. God's voice causes things to happen. On the Sabbath, God rests, and sacred time is created. Time that is holy. Time for God.
On the Sabbath, for sacred time, Jesus goes to the synagogue where the Jewish people gather to listen to the Word of God and to pray. At the synagogue, he teaches.
They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
It is interesting that St. Mark does not tell us what Jesus says when he is teaching. We are just told how he teaches. He teaches as one who has authority. What does this mean? The Greek word that St. Mark uses is exousia which means, "the power to act." I wonder what it sounds like when Jesus teaches? When he teaches, the people feel like he has power to act. Where does he get this power? What will he do with his power?
Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and 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.”
Can you imagine being at church and someone standing up and shouting these words? I wonder if the people in the synagogue are startled by this man who comes "just then." There is something wrong with him. He is not the whole person God created him to be. Something unclean is within him and being near Jesus seems to have upset him.
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
Jesus does not wait a moment. He does not want this man to live with this unclean spirit. He wants the man to be whole. Immediately Jesus speaks. And immediately the man is whole again. Now he is the person God created him to be.
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Ah! The people have noticed something. Jesus teaches with authority, as one who has the power to act, but now here also is this power in action. Jesus speaks and it is done. Jesus' voice causes things to happen.
Just like God.
What are we seeing here? Whose authority does Jesus have?
St. Mark shows us that Jesus has the authority of God who speaks and it is done. But we are also shown how Jesus uses that power.
Does he use it to make himself so great? No. Jesus specifically tells the unclean spirit to be silent, to stop talking about him.
Jesus uses his authority to make the man clean,
to make him whole,
to restore him to the person he is created to be.
And the good news? Jesus continues to use his authority in the same way today. Each time--every time--we go to the sacrament of reconciliation, Jesus uses this authority.
Like the disciples, like the people in the synagogue, like the man with the unclean spirit, we spend time listening to Jesus teach with authority. We listen to the Word of God. When we listen, we start to realize that some of our choices have made us unclean, have made us not whole, have made us not the person we were created to be.
But we know more than the unclean spirit. We know that Jesus has not come to destroy us because we have made bad choices. We know how Jesus uses his authority, so we go to the sacrament of reconciliation. When we say our sins out loud and we say we are sorry, the priest is the ears of God, listening to our words.
Then the priest speaks with the voice of Jesus:
I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
And it is done. Our sins are absolutely taken away. Just like he does for the man in the Gospel today,
Jesus makes us clean,
Jesus makes us whole,
Jesus restores us to the person we are created to be.