My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
The Gospel that we just heard calls us to continue our journey with Jesus here in these first Sundays of the new year.
And so today, we are walking in his footsteps, traveling down the road with Jesus and his first disciples toward Capernaum. And in the Gospel, we go with them into the synagogue on the Sabbath to hear Jesus teach.
But it is interesting that our Gospel today does not tell us what Jesus is teaching or what he is talking about. We only hear the effect that his words have on those who hear him.
As we just heard:
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
So the people somehow understand that Jesus is not like the scribes. The scribes are teachers, but they have no authority, no power.
The people seem to understand that the Word that Jesus brings is not only a human word — it is the Word of God.
Jesus teaches with authority. That means that that Word of Jesus is true, that his Word has power. When Jesus speaks — his words become actions. His words “do” the things that he says he is going to do.
So, as we hear in the Gospel, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man — and the spirit came out of the man and he was made clean.
So when Jesus speaks, his word is fulfilled in reality! And I think first of all, this should make us think about the inspiration of the Scriptures and the power of the Sacraments. In the Sacraments, the priest speaks the words of Christ — and what the priest says, comes true.
When the priest says in the Eucharist, Holy Mass, “This is my Body” — the bread becomes the Body of Christ. And when he says, “I absolve you from your sins,” our sins are forgiven in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
So today we are really called to reflect on the divine authority of Jesus, who is, as we know, perfect God and perfect man. What we are seeing in this synagogue at Capernaum today is the revelation of the divinity of Jesus. We are being shown that Jesus is more than a Son of Man. Jesus is also the Son of God.
And the word of Jesus is the word of God — which means that it is a word of love. His word — his teaching and his sacraments — can set us free to become the men and women that God made us to be.
He is really the one that Moses was speaking about in the first reading, the prophet that Moses says will be raised up by God. We heard the voice of God speaking to Moses in that first reading:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
So Jesus always said that the word he came to speak was not his own word. He came to speak the word that his Father told him to speak.2
So, my dear brothers and sisters, today we need to reflect on our relationship to Jesus and his word.
So the question for us — the first question: Are we listening to his word? Do we really believe that his word are spirit and life? That his words contain the truth that we need to know for our happiness?
We do. But obviously today is a great opportunity for us to reflect on how we relate — how we have that personal relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because Jesus teaches us as one having authority. His words have the power to change our lives — to change your life and to change my life. To show you and to show me the way of love, the way of joy.
But only if we are listening, only if we are willing to let his words enter our hearts.
St. Paul in the second reading of today’s Mass says — the words that the second reading starts today: “I should like you to be free of anxieties.”
Isn’t this what we all want? We all want to live with peace of mind, we want to live with simplicity and to know that what we are doing is pleasing to God and that we are in right relationship with the people in our lives.
This is what we all want, and Jesus today shows us how to get it.
So, my brothers and sisters, we need to find a way to keep his word dwelling within us, letting it slowly change our hearts, day after day, year after year.
It is true. God wants all of us to be happy. God wants that we have that peace of mind. And Jesus is the one that is coming to tell us exactly how we are going to get that in our lives.
So let’s ask for the grace today to listen — not just like more thing, but something that is very important for each one of us — for our personal lives, for our families, for our Church and for our world.
One practically recommendation, also coming from Pope Francis, that you read the Gospels a little bit every day. The Gospel is the life of Jesus, his life and teachings. It is a practical way of coming into contact with Jesus and the power of his word.
The people in the Gospel today were amazed by his teaching. They said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
So we need to bring ourselves into the presence of his teaching — even for just a few minutes every day. Just a verse from the Gospel, or just a small passage like the one we heard today. It takes just a few minutes.
We all say, well I am too busy — it’s a few minutes. And it’s just a little click in our cell phone, or in our iPad, or whatever it is that we have. And it takes a few minutes, and we reflect on what is it that God is talking to me today. And how he’s helping me to discover the best way to live in our world.
So, even just reading in silence, asking Jesus to open our hearts. Be like those people in synagogue at Capernaum — and let yourselves be astonished by his teaching. Feel the love that is in his words, the love that he has for you in a personal way.
So, this week, let us especially try to spend a little more “quality time” reading the Gospels and reflecting on Jesus and the word he wants to speak in our lives.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us. May she help us to be amazed by his love and to share his love with everyone in our life.
1. Readings: Deut. 18:15-20; Ps. 95:1-2, 6-9; 1 Cor. 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28.
2. John 7:16; 12:49.