They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and 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.”
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Astonished. When was the last time any of us were astonished at the words of Jesus? The awe of Jesus is very important. But I can easily miss it. After all, the story seems to focus on a demon and its desire to identify Jesus. This passage points to the Messianic secret used by Mark—demons and sinners identify Christ, but followers struggle to do so. I typically do some pondering and theological reflection on this secret, but rarely am I astonished.
Perhaps, however, we should focus more on the simple awe. We hear the same or similar gospel readings relatively frequently and they sometimes become just another regular feature in the day. The same can be said of our religious celebrations. We are just at the closing edge of Christmas and the Epiphany. I have to ask myself—did any of these shock or astound me? Did the radical love of Jesus, bursting into the world, surprise me in any way?
I can easily slip into the routines and habits of my faith. But it is very good for me to be surprised, wowed, and amazed by Jesus. The Jews in the synagogue experienced Jesus for the very first time. We have heard the Christ story for years and it is a major part of our society. How do we experience Jesus for the first time? How do we let Christ astonish us by his love and teaching?
Maybe take some time to reflect how Jesus has astonished you by his love through others and yourself. Or perhaps, try Ignatian Contemplation and enter the scene to find out what it was like to be a first-century Jew discovering Jesus for the first time.
—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.
Lord, we ask two things this day. We want to be like those in the synagogue who experienced the authority of your teaching. Let your Spirit embrace our spirit so your Word touches the deepest channels of our being. And let our conversations with others be infused with your authority so we can be an instrument of your truth and courage.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team