"What is this? A new teaching with authority" (Mk 1: 27). The Gospel reading for this Sunday's mass from Mark 1: 21-28 tells us about the authority of Jesus Christ over sin and Satan. In his teaching and deed at the synagogue in Capernaum on the sabbath, Jesus restores creation and establishes the divine authority over the impurity of sin and the evil clutches of Satan, the prince of demons. He commands the evil spirit to come out of the man it possesses, and it obeys the authority of Jesus' words.
Significantly, this saving event took place on the Sabbath, a day that reminds Jews and Christians of God's promise and covenant love for his people and their deliverance from slavery to sin. It also draws our attention to the importance of worshipping God as a Christian community on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. On this sabbath, Jesus, in words and deeds, delivered a man possessed by "an unclean spirit", that is, the evil spirit also called Satan. Jesus exercises authority over the devil, rebuking and casting it out of the one under its dominion. We are to keep in mind the capacity of Satan to possess and overpower us if we allow mortal sin to dominate us and are not committed to an intentional life of prayer and living a virtuous life. The evil one has some power, though incomparable to the almighty and authoritative power of Jesus Christ, yet the evil one is powerful enough to enslave us if we become spiritually careless or lukewarm and enslaved to sin.
There is no cause for alarm, even if we know the devil has a lot of dark influence in the world. We have Jesus's authoritative word and acts on our side to strengthen our faith and empower us to overcome the evil one. Jesus, whom Moses wrote about in Deuteronomy 18: 15-20, is now with us by way of incarnation and, sacramentally, in the Holy Eucharist.
As we heard last Sunday about the importance of praying the Word of God- the Bible- and getting closer to Jesus, we hear this Sunday in the readings about God's actions and voice speaking to us of the authority of His words and deeds. If we only listen to and obey his voice as Psalm 95 says, he will protect us and deliver us from all evil, as we say in the Lord's prayer. Jesus continues to teach us authoritatively and exercise power over sin and Satan. How am I taking responsibility for listening to his teaching? How am I listening to his voice through his established authority in the church? Do I take ownership of the power of the Word in overcoming and overturning any hold of sin in my life?
Fr. Alayode Bernard, OP