Tuesday of Week 1 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Mark 1:21-28

Today’s passage is the first part of a day in the life of Jesus in which he carries out the main activities of his mission – teaching and healing. He goes to Capernaum, the centre of much of his work, on a Sabbath day and like every observant Jew, goes to the synagogue. And, like any Jew who wishes to do so, he addresses the congregation.

He begins to teach the people. Much of Jesus’ work will consist of teaching, of communicating his message, his vision of life. People are deeply impressed because, unlike the Scribes, he speaks with authority. The Scribes could only interpret or give the meaning of the Scripture. Jesus spoke in his own right. Jesus speaks in the best tradition of the great prophets. But there is more. Jesus’ authority is empowering and liberating; it is not oppressive or subjugating. He will say in John’s Gospel:

…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)

Right there in the synagogue was a man possessed by an “unclean” spirit. It was called ‘unclean’ because of its basic resistance to the holiness of God. This was a world where many unexplained symptoms in people were attributed to evil powers and were often believed to be the punishment for sinful behaviour. The spirit resented the presence of Jesus and said:

I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

It was believed that, by giving a hostile spirit its exact name, one could have power over him. But Jesus silences the evil spirit and tells it to come out of the man, who experiences a kind of fit and cries out.

Again the people are amazed at the power and authority of this man Jesus. He has new teaching and can give orders to evil spirits. The question is being asked: “Just who is this man?” This question is the underlying theme of the first half of this Gospel.

It for us to submit ourselves to the same empowering authority of Jesus, to listen to his teaching by steeping ourselves in his Gospel message and experiencing his healing and liberation in our lives.

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