10 January 
Mk 1:21-28

When the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 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.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

“The earth was literally a hell,” wrote someone describing the belief in evil spirits in Jesus' time.  The air was thought to be full of them.  They were believed to cause physical and mental illness when they gained access to a person.  It sounds a little like what people say about microbes today, but these evil spirits were seen as sinister and malicious. 

Synagogues were places of teaching; there was no music, no sacrifice (that was in the Temple).  But in casting out demons, Jesus was doing something for people; he wasn't just discoursing on the Law, as the scribes did endlessly.  When Jesus frequented synagogues (before they expelled him and he never returned) he didn't just preach; he healed people’s tortured minds and bodies; he restored their strength to them.

Sometimes preachers disable people, by a habit of denunciation, by forever enjoining obedience, quoting rules.... But see what happens when Jesus comes near people.  “He spoke as one having authority,” the gospels say.  This expression ‘having authority’ usually means being authorised, having the right from some authority to act as one does.  But the word ‘authority’ itself means just the opposite.  It means to be oneself the source (the ‘author’) of one’s words and actions.  Jesus spoke with authority; he was not quoting texts, like the scribes and Pharisees.  The best quoters are people who have no ideas of their own, just as the cruellest people often say they were acting under authority.  But Jesus was his own man.  That is what attracted people to him.


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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