‘He Taught Them as One Having Authority’

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Mary Flick, CSJ

Still at the beginning of our new liturgical year, we find in today’s gospel Jesus beginning his public ministry. The past two Sunday gospels have shared how Jesus called his disciples. This week, he begins his teaching career in the synagogue of Capernaum. Already, the people are astonished at the confidence with which he teaches. He knows his material and he shares it as if he has been doing it all his life – “as one having authority.”

Who is an authority? An authority is one who has power to influence. Much like a person who is authentic. Perhaps the source of Jesus’s authority was his personal authenticity. He was true to who he was and who he knew himself to be, the Holy One of God. And that truth was attractive – as the first disciples certainly knew. That truth was undeniable – as the unclean spirit in today’s gospel testifies. That truth of character demands obedience – and the unclean spirit left the man it possessed as Jesus commanded.

Where does such authority come from? We get a sense in today’s first reading as we encounter Moses speaking of his own authority and that of his successor. Authority comes directly from the word of God. God has told Moses, “I will put my words into his mouth, and he shall tell them all that I command him.” Moses’ authority comes from the Source of all authenticity and truth, it comes from God. God is the source of all authentic teaching and such teaching is true. But if Moses’ successor does not listen to or speak God’s words, if the prophet speaks something other than God’s words, or speaks the words of another, inauthentic god – he is as good as dead.

What does all this mean for us? Paul gives us a hint in today’s second reading. Anxiety is a part of life and Paul wishes all followers of Jesus to be free of anxiety. Whether married or single, Paul sets our sights on the Source of our freedom – and the Source of Jesus’s authenticity: “adherence to the Lord without distraction.” Stay focused and stay close to God, the Source of all good. God is with us. Our nearness to God is the source of our confidence and our authority. And it enables us, with all our imperfections, to know the Holy One of God whenever we see God in our neighbor and in one another.

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