4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year B

He taught with authority

There were many learned scribes and rabbis in Jesus' day, and the Jewish people would often refer religious questions to them because they were so knowledgeable. An appeal could be frustrating, however. More often than not, the scribes could cite all the opinions on any religious question, but were unable to state with assurance which was the correct opinion.

That is why Jesus' teaching was so attractive to devout questioners. When they asked for a definite solution, He would as much as say, "This is it."

Of course, nobody could ever match Our Lord in giving the right answer. Still, there have been brilliant people so deeply acquainted with their own field of learning that one could depend on them to give a final response to practically every question.

One such scholar was the famous George Lyman Kittredge, for years a professor of English literature at Harvard University. Having received his bachelor's degree at Harvard, he showed such talent that the University engaged him as a teacher. This was long before the degree of doctor of philosophy was demanded of university faculty members or, indeed, was even a popular degree in America. Professor Kittredge, A.B. soon became one of the world's most learned men in English literature. For decades his courses on Shakespeare were the most popular courses taught at Harvard.

Every now and then, in his later years, some of his students would ask him, "Why don't you study for a doctorate of philosophy?

The brusque bearded old scholar always had the same answer, "Who would examine me?"

…A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority! (Mark, 1-27. Today's Gospel).

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q356: What is the difference between the power and authority of the Scribes, as contrasted with that of Jesus in today’s gospel (Mk 1:21-28)?

Six years ago, a Methodist preacher friend asked me if I knew the difference between “power” and “authority.” Then he gave an illustration of the difference. Suppose, he said, that you're sitting at a traffic light, in the middle lane, waiting for the light to change. On your left is a Dodge Viper, with about a zillion horsepower, just waiting to streak away like a shot. That is power! On your right is the biggest, shiniest eighteen-wheeler you ever saw, with chromium exhaust pipes and a cab that looks two stories tall, and it is rumbling like a thousand snarling lions, waiting for the light to change. That's power!

But just before the light begins to change, you see a State Policeman, in shiny boots and spit-and-polish uniform. His car is parked across the way. He is evidently filling in for the school crossing guard. He walks to the center of the street and holds up his hand. All the traffic comes to a stop. You wait. The Viper waits. The eighteen-wheeler waits. And a tiny little girl with a backpack walks kitty-corner across the busy intersection. The rumbling engines may have power. But he has the authority!

Just like the drivers in the outside and inside lanes, the Scribes could make a lot of noise and show off a lot with their pretentious knowledge, arguing from sunrise to sunset on obscure points of law. But only Jesus had both power and authority that was recognized by demons, and also the power and authority to command their instant, unquestioning obedience. Here is the point: the Scribes never yielded to the wisdom and truth of Jesus Christ. Now it is your turn: will you recognize, trust and yield to the authority of Jesus, or will you follow your own opinions?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus delegated his Mission to his chosen disciples, the Apostles, who passed it on to their successors, the Bishops (CCC #2034). Will you recognize, trust and yield to their authority (which comes from Jesus Christ), or just cling to your own opinions? Are you a proud scribe or a humble disciple?

If Today You Hear His Voice, Harden Not Your Hearts

Many Americans associate prophets with foretelling the future, but the book of Deuteronomy tells us that a prophet is not primarily a forecaster of the future, but rather one who speaks for God, someone whose words have divine authority, someone whose words we can ignore only at our peril. But Scripture also warns us that not everyone who claims to speak for God really does. So we have to learn discernment – how listen to a prophet, but also checking out his authority. One way of doing this is to ask, ”Who benefits?” If the so called prophet is the chief beneficiary, we ought to be wary. Today’s gospel speaks of Jesus as the prophet promised to Moses. He teaches in the synagogue with authority; he doesn’t quote this scribe or that teacher to support his words. He is the Word of God speaking; he never speaks or acts for his own benefit. He acts out of compassion to free us from the burden of ignorance of God. With equal authority he frees the possessed from the power of evil. He speaks and acts always for the benefit of others. At every Mass we encounter Jesus teaching and working wonders. How well do I listen? How do I apply his words to my life

Lord, when you speak to us today through Paul or Mark or John, Open my ears to hear; soften the hardness of my heart and help me to act on what I have heard.