Astonished and Amazed: Mark 1:21-28


Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 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!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

 

When was the last time you were astonished or amazed? Chances are, it wasn’t at church – was it?

Jesus went into the synagogue and taught. And the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.Jesus can teach with the authority of God, for He is God. He didn’t interpret and/or speculate, He taught and expounded. Where might we find this authority today?

Well, since we have such an awesome God, He has provided this authority to the Church He founded.

Let us recall the “Great Commission” for a moment. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:18-20.

First, note that Jesus confirms His authority and then proceeds to give His authority to the Apostles. We see this in  St. John’s gospel, too. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jn. 20:21. Isn’t it a great comfort to realize that within Christ’s Church, He has handed down His own authority through Apostolic succession? Directly from Jesus, to His Apostles and down to our Bishops today. Only God could do such an amazing work of preservation! So we can be assured that what the Church has held true for two thousand years has Jesus’ very own authority attached to it. Now, that is astonishing!

Secondly, notice that this authority is to make disciples through baptism and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Obedience to Jesus is essential to be a disciple of Christ. Without obedience to His commands, we fail in living out His call to , “Follow Me“. Thus, we bring a distorted gospel to the people around us, and His authority becomes suspect.

So this week, let us be fully obedient to the authority of the Church. In living out the gospel this way, we become the light of the world. A city on a hill, that all around us can see. This light, of course, is our good works [obedience] that give glory to your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:14,16.

Amen.

 

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Follow Me: Mark 1:12-20


And immediately the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they immediately left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. He immediately called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.    

After St. John gets arrested, we see Jesus start proclaiming the gospel of God. Jesus’ message was: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  So…..just what is this gospel that Jesus proclaimed?

As we hear this word “gospel” today we tend to think of it as Jesus dying for our sin. This is indeed “good news” (that is what the word gospel means) but it wasn’t what Jesus was proclaiming here.

Before the “gospel” became the suffering, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, it was first and foremost the “good news” of Emmanuel (God with us). The kingdom of God is at hand and the King of this kingdom has indeed come to dwell with his people. His preaching and teaching about the grace and mercy of God had long been overlooked by the religious leaders. It had been replaced with judgemental legalism by these self-righteous “religious” of the day. Had the words of Hosea the prophet been forgotten? For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings. (6:6) Jesus even commands the leaders of his day to learn the meaning of these words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. (Matt. 9:13)

Why is it so hard for us to “get”?! God is so desirous of us, that he pursues us! He humbled himself to become one of us, so we could live forever with him. The words of Zephaniah come to mind as I ponder this: The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (3:17) How wonderful that the Creator of the universe delights in me, rejoices over me. As I recognise his grace and mercy, I respond in obedience seeking the grace and mercy he offers.

Might this be the reason that Simon, Andrew, James and John responded immediately and left their nets and their father?

Who can describe the love of God when it is revealed to us? The “feeling” is indescribable, yet it can be seen. For his love calls us to act…immediately! Others may have said of these first disciples, “Thoes guys are crazy! They gave up their jobs and their families to follow some guy who is proclaiming ‘repentance and good news'”.

This week, let us ask ourselves, “Can people see the gospel in me?” As Jesus calls me to follow him, are my actions to obey that call or to turn the other way?

May we not preach the gospel of convience with our lives, but the gospel of obedience.

Amen.

The Beginning of the Gospel: Mark 1:1-11


The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaias the prophet: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. John was in the desert baptizing, and preaching the baptism of penance, unto remission of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem, and were baptized by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass, in those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And forthwith coming up out of he water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit as a dove descending, and remaining on him.  And there came a voice from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 

Before we start our study on the gospel of St. Mark, I would like to take a moment to explain my lack of participation, posting and the re-hashing of a study from my other blog. Since mid February I had returned to work. I am a salesman for a plant farm in northern Iowa, so my work is seasonal. The growing season this far north is very short, and through out the months of April and May, I’ve been putting in 80-100 hours a week. This really cuts into my study time (not to mention my family,prayer,bible reading and Mass times). So with June’s arrival has come a slight slowdown (only 50-70 hours a week). Now that you’re all caught up on all my “goings on”, let’s get into our study!

We see that at the very beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ that St. John the Baptist has been busy; busy to prepare ye the way of the Lord, for years, possibly. He had been preaching the baptism of penance, unto remission of sins. This was not a new practice to Judaism. Jews often baptized their gentile converts, some sects practiced baptism as a symbol of purification. As a matter of fact, on page 58 of “Judaism for Dummies” by Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D. and David Blatner, they state, “the mikvah (a ritual bath composed of mostly fresh water) is a process of being born again and refocusing on creation.” This language should sound very familiar to us as Christians (John 3:3).

Please note that not only was St. John baptizing the people, he was also hearing their confessions! ….and were baptized by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins, only those who repented were fit for baptism for the scripture refers to it as a baptism of penance, unto remission of sins. Repentance, as we know, signifies not only sorrow for sin, but the resolve to sin no more. Those who repented and were baptised were pardoned, since both are needed for forgiveness.

This “repenting” was indeed their confession, for how else would St. John know their sincerity? How many times have I read this passage and missed this part? Doesn’t even the letter of St. James teach us to “confess your sins to one another“? Of course, we need to understand that before it was a Christian practice, it was Judaism’s practice. In fact, traditional Judaism still practice confession and reconciliation as part of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Again, from the book Judaism for Dummies, page 237; “Jewish tradition clearly states that Yom Kippur offers a blanket forgiveness from God if (and only if) you have both repented and atoned for any wrongs.” It goes on to say, “Atonement has more to do with actually making amends, fixing something that you have broken. Just apologizing isn’t enough; you have to find a way to make reparation. A rabbi might help you discover a suitable action but ultimately he (or she) can’t prescribe anything- that’s between you and the other person and God.”

Of course, Jesus gave His apostles the authority to forgive and retain sins (John 20:23) and passed that authority down through their successors (paragraph 77, 860-62 CCC, Matt. 28:20, Acts 20:28).

St. John the Baptist understood his role in salvation history, There cometh after me one mightier than I. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, he remained humble in his important role.

So this week, let us ask ourselves these questions: Do I understand my role in salvation history? Am I sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leadership in my life? Am I humble before Almighty God? As we ponder these questions this week, look for ways to share your faith with someone. It may be as simple as sharing a smile or as bold as preaching a sermon. Let’s make this the beginning of the gospel in our lives.

Amen.