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. 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, convulsing him 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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
An “authority” can mean someone who studies a subject more than most people. In this sense, Stephen Hawking is an authority in astrophysics. The rest of us, who do not know much about astrophysics, have to take it on faith that he knows what he is talking about. And if we do not like an authority or his message, we are free to ignore him, or to contest his authority status.
“Authority” can also mean a person who receives power from above to perform a mission or to command. The captain of a Navy vessel is an authority because Congress gave her that role. It does not matter whether the sailors like her personally, and they cannot decide on their own whether to obey her. They are obliged to obey her simply by virtue of who she is.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ power over demons proved that his new teaching was not justified by his own personal study of the Scriptures, or by the fact that most people loved him. It was justified by his authority from above.
St. Ignatius asks us to reflect that, if we are willing to love and obey a noble human leader, and to make sacrifices for him, then how much more should we love and obey Jesus, our perfect leader and our eternal king?
—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ
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