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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): Show, Not Tell


Last week, we thought about the Kingdom of God happening in this very moment, and how God calls each of us right now to participate. And yet, in the Gospel for this Sunday, we might wonder if this is really true. It may seem like Jesus does not want everyone to know about the Kingdom or about who he is.

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Capernaum is a town in Galilee. St. Mark shows us that the life of Jesus and his disciples includes time at the synagogue on the Sabbath day. St. Mark must think it important that we know that Jesus is a faithful Jew. Jesus 'keeps the Sabbath'that means he follows the law regarding the holy day for the Jewish people. He keeps time sacred for God.

We might notice that St. Mark does not seem all that concerned with what Jesus actually says when he teaches. He shows us only how Jesus teaches: with authority. Why would St. Mark show us that Jesus has the power to teach, without telling us what he says?

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.”

This moment must disturb everyone involved. Obviously the man with the unclean spirit feels disturbed. We imagine that all the people in the synagogue feel extremely uncomfortable. They would want this encounter to end. They might want to slip out of the synagogue unnoticed. They might hope that someone will take charge and make the man leave.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

Jesus does not avoid the conflict. He speaks directly to the unclean spirit within the man. Notice, he says two things: a) be silent; b) come out.

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

The unclean spirit comes out, but it is hardly silent.

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.”

Here the people comment on Jesus' authority again. When commanded, the unclean spirit comes out of the man, making him whole again. The fact that Jesus says, "be silent," and yet the unclean spirit is quite noisy, does not bother the people; it does not seem to be a contradiction. The people have heard and seen for themselves that unclean spirits obey Jesus.

From this we realize that when Jesus says, "be silent!", he does not mean, "make no noise." The man with the unclean spirit has just said, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God." Everyone must realize that in truth Jesus tells him to stop talking. Jesus does not want him to keep saying this. We have to wonder, why not? Jesus is the Holy One of God, is he not? Would he not want everyone to know?

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

From time to time when reading the Gospel, we see this kind of thingJesus telling people not to talk about something. It seems odd because Jesus himself proclaims the good news, and yet here he smothers the news that he is the Holy One of God. In this particular situation of this Gospel passage, we might understand when we consider the source of the news. This man has an unclean spirit. How trustworthy would the townspeople consider him? What effect would he have on the townspeople when hethe guy with the unclean spiritproclaims that Jesus is the Holy One of God? Long before our day and age, this would surely be considered fake news!

We have to wonder, though, if St. Mark shows us something more about Jesus here. He does not tell us what Jesus teaches in the synagogue, but he shows us Jesus' power and authority by what he does. Jesus shows the people in the synagogue his authority and what do they do? They do not say, "Wow, that was cool," and head home. No, they ask a question. "What is this?" They do not understand what they have seen, and they want to know more. They become involved.

This same method Jesus uses over and over, does he not?

Instead of explaining the Kingdom of God, he gives us a parable. The parable contains within it the good news, but we have work to do to find it. We ask questions. What can this mean?

Instead of talking about Parousia, Jesus performs a miracle. The miracle is a sign, but we have work to do to understand what it means. We ask more questions. What is this? What can this mean?

We become involved. By showing us, and not explaining everything, Jesus draws us closer to the mystery. Naturally, we are curious. We want to know more.

Even the cows do not want to be told. -Photo by Gavin Tyte on Unsplash

In our lives, we might try Jesus' approach to the good news. We draw closer to Jesus each week by considering what the Word of God means. But how do we share this with others? Do we stand in front of our homes, preaching to people the good news? ("Hey, Mrs. Campbell, did you hear that Jesus is the Holy One of God?") People might start asking questions, but probably not about Jesus. They would question our sanity!

People do not want someone to tell them what to believe; they want to discover for themselves. So much more joy! Jesus knows this. We know it, too. Could we instead show that we know that Jesus is the Holy One of God? Could we keep sacred time for God? Could we keep our SabbathSundayholy? By our lives, people would see and hear for themselves the authority of Jesus. Naturally, they would become curious. They might start asking questions. They would want to know more.

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