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WITH WHAT AUTHORITY DOES JESUS SPEAK TO US?

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor. 2:10-16 & Lk. 4:31-37

In how many different languages is Mass said around the world every day? And what language does God use when He speaks to us as individuals? It is not any human language, in fact, for He speaks to us through the Spirit.

We can learn something about God through using the intellect He has given us, by reading and thinking about the Scriptures. But to get the best from them we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us.

We as Catholics like to think of ourselves as spiritual people. We have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments, and through His power we are able to have faith. At the Eucharist, an unbeliever sees only ordinary bread and wine, but in faith we perceive that we are in contact with the Body and Blood of Christ. Unspiritual people don't appreciate spiritual actions such as the sign of the Cross, going to Confession, or the use of sacramentals. To us they are meaningful and life-giving, but as Saint Paul says in the first reading, “the unspiritual person sees it all as nonsense."

It is all important for us to be aware of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We may forget Him sometimes - but He never forgets us! He is always there, looking for an opening. Our lives can have so much depth and richness if we treat Him as our best friend. When we pray, the Holy Spirit is our interpreter. He carries God's message to us in a language we can understand, if we are prepared to listen. He prays in us to our Father, even when we cannot find the right words. Think how grateful you are when, on your foreign holidays, you find someone who speaks both languages and can guide you and help you find what you need. How foolish you would be to reject this help. So too, in our spiritual life, the Holy Spirit opens up a whole world and its riches to us. Our Blessed Lady and the saints had confidence in the Holy Spirit and He transformed their lives. How often we find something lacking in our lives - perhaps it's that loving conversation with the Holy Spirit.

In today's Gospel we are told that Jesus' teaching made a deep impression because he spoke with the authority of experience. We respect a person who speaks with experience, too, as when, for example, veterans narrate the horrors on the battlefield. John the Baptist, contrasting himself to Jesus, said, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from Heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard ..." (John 3:31-32). And Jesus speaking to Nicodemus about Himself said, "Truly, I say to you, we say that of which we have knowledge; we give witness of what we have seen: and you do not take our witness to be true" (Jn. 3:11). People could sense that Jesus spoke from experience even of heavenly things.

He spoke with moral authority. If a preacher is to exhort hearers to desist from an immoral act then he or she must not commit it themselves! Jesus could dare to unmask the hypocrisy of the Pharisees with absolutely no fear because He was sinless. In fact, He did challenge His adversaries as to whether any could accuse Him of having committed any sin, but none could (John 8:46). People could sense the light of holiness in Jesus' words and deeds.

He spoke with the authority of love. People more easily accept the reproof of those who love them and of whose love they are convinced. They know that the one who reprimands does so for their good. Jesus loved the people and they knew it. He never spared Himself to attend to their needs. All the miracles He performed portrayed, not just His divine power, but also His love. He was the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, and whose voice the sheep knows, just as He knows the voices of His sheep (Jn. 10:14).

Jesus continues to exercise His authority through His faithful ministers: the authority that comes from an intimate knowledge of God, moral rectitude and self-giving love. People who have these speak and make a deep impression on others.

Lord Jesus, as Your teaching made a deep impression on the people of Capernaum because You spoke with authority, may we find this happens in our hearts, too, and that we will follow You steadfastly.

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