Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

We don’t know anything about what Jesus said in that synagogue in Capernaum.  The gospel simply says that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and that he has a unique authority.  His authority is spoken and it defines who Jesus is.  His authority is put into action and it defines what Jesus does. 

Jesus is the One God sent into the world to people whose lives are broken by sin.  Like the man in that synagogue who was possessed by the demon there is so much brokenness and pain in this world and Jesus the Christ has come to heal what is most painful in our lives, to bring peace in all the conflict and strife we face, to make our lives whole in his merciful love.

As impressive as the divine authority of Jesus is, though, the sad truth is that the awe of it doesn’t always make much of a difference.  It healed the possessed man and made those folks in Capernaum drop their jaws when they saw and heard the demon come out at Jesus’ command.  This was not a magic trick.  It was simply words of a command put into action.  But how long did the awe last in those people from Capernaum?  Later on, Jesus condemned the people from Capernaum because they didn’t believe, they didn’t change their lives and they continued to live within their sins.  Jesus’ authority was great for a little while; great enough to heal a man, but not great enough to convince those who saw it, that they should repent.

It’s sort of like the miracle we experience here at Mass.  We are in the presence of Jesus Christ.  His being commingles with our own in this Eucharistic meal.  We hear the Good News of God’s love proclaimed in the gospel and in the other readings of the Mass.  The divine presence of Jesus is real in us.  This place today is as alive with the Body of Christ as that synagogue was nearly 2,000 years ago.  He comes to bring healing, the forgiveness of sins and peace for our broken lives.  His presence has a transformative power that calls us to repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

But how many of us are willing to turn away from sin to be faithful to the Gospel which calls us to take up our crosses each day to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?  The Gospel is Good News for a world drowning in despair, shame and sin, but Christ calls us to die to sin, to die to our greed, our prejudices, to all the ways we hate other people and to all the ways we ignore the plight of the poor.

Unfortunately, we get so used to the ritual we don’t even find it worthy of much awe.  We’re impressed enough to be here and the Eucharist does make a small difference in our lives.  The healing miracle happens over time.  Knowing this, we entrust our lives to the saving power of Christ, whose healing power comes by his divine authority.  The healing may not come in the ways we expect.  It might not fill us with the jaw dropping awe the people in Capernaum experienced when Jesus expelled the demon from that man.  However, His authority constantly and patiently urges us to receive his healing love.  It calls us to follow him as faithfully as we possibly can.  This is done by giving away what we have received – his divine love.

The miracle of this Mass might not be as impressive as witnessing an exorcism in a crowded synagogue – but that’s not the point of what’s happening here.  The point of the Gospel, the point of the Eucharist is simply this:  Jesus Christ has come into the world to heal us and to love us into eternal life in God’s kingdom.  Whether or not we’re impressed, we have to ask ourselves this question.  Are we ready to follow him?

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