The Gospel of today, (Mk 1:21-28) presented Jesus as the new Moses. The first reading, (Deut 18:15-20) prophesied about this new Moses and it stated that the one who does not listen to the words of God as spoken by this prophet, (new Moses), shall be held accountable by God.
Moses was the greatest law giver; the first five books of the Old Testament, (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), were ascribed to him. After his death, the Book of Deuteronomy eulogised him in these words, “since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deut 34:10-12).
Jesus, as the new Moses, taught the people about the kingdom of God in a Synagogue. We read that his teaching made a deep impression on the people because, unlike the scribes, he taught with authority. There are different kinds of authority. One may be knowledgeable in a particular field of study and we regard them as an authority in that field. A good example is someone like Steve Hawkins in physics. There is the authority that perpetuates oppression and structural subjugation of others. For instance, in some Islamic, Asian, and African societies, women are denied education and job opportunities merely because they are female. Similarly, Hitler and his cohorts are good examples of authority which demean people. Parents too have authority in their family, however, some parents, through their actions, have abnegated their authority in their family.
Jesus’ authority is one that brings life and wholeness to people. It brings both physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. In the Gospel of today, Jesus did not only teach the people, but he also brought healing to a sick person. This wholistic approach by Jesus made the people to be full of admiration for him and they said, “Here is a teaching that is new and with authority behind it.” Jesus had taught his disciples that to be great is to be the servants of others. When his disciples were squabbling about who was the greatest among them, Jesus reminded them that among the pagans, their leaders are authoritarian, but in the Christian community, leadership is through service; he invited them to follow his example, for though he is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, he humbled himself to become human for the justification of all humans. Again, he came not to be served but to serve and to offer his life as a ransom for many, (Mk 10:45).
Jesus leads from the front. He had criticised the scribes and the Pharisees for ‘talking the talk’ and not ‘walking the walk’. The Church has done multiple good works in the world. It has touched people’s lives and transformed them. She has brought light and hope to communities by lifting them from the mud and standing them on pedestals; She has freed communities from shackles that are holding them in bondage.
None-the-less, there have been some behaviours from some Christians that have led to the erosion of the authority of the Church and Christianity in the world. Good examples include the Church’s participation in slavery and the cover up of the abuse of minors by Church leaders. Hence, at times, the authority entrusted to the Church by Christ has been abused. Jesus had entrusted his authority to the Church when he said to Peter, “So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock, I will build my church. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven,’” (Mt 16:18).
Again, when he said to his disciples after his resurrection, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time,’’ (Mt 28:18-20).
Those who exercise authority should be conscious that authority is sacred. Authority should always be exercised for the good of others and not to advance one’s ego or camouflage one’s lack of skills.
Finally, in this year of St Joseph, I wish to remind you that our Parish Theme for this year is OUTREACH. We decided to repeat our 2020 theme because Covid restrictions prevented us from living out that theme.
We intend to implement our Parish theme by intensifying our ministry to the school families and young adults, increasing our visitations to our Parishioners, and supporting programmes which ameliorate the lives of the poor and marginalised.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp