THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH of the late 4th century Capernaum Synagogue built over the remains of the 1st century Synagogue of Jesus. The Marcan Gospel scene, Chapter 1: 21-28 took place here.
They came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he went to synagogue and began to teach. The people were astounded at his teaching, for, unlike the doctors of the law, he taught with a note of authority. Now there was a man in the synagogue possessed by an unclean spirit. He shrieked: "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God.?" Jesus rebuked him: "Be silent", he said, "And come out of him. And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry left him. They were all dumbfounded and began to ask one another, "What is this? a new kind of teaching! He speaks with authority. When he gives orders, even the unclean spirits submit." The news spread rapidly, and he was soon spoken of all over the district of Galilee.
The people sensed that Jesus taught with authority. That might better be translated authenticity - that what Jesus preached came from his own inner experience of God, that he wasn't just repeating religious formulas like their own lawyer-preachers. The quality of preaching today needs a serious reform. It's no secret that people leave the Church and search elsewhere because the preaching at Mass is so often abysmal.
A grandpa took his grandson to Mass one Sunday - a young boy whose parents were not church-goers. On the way back home the grandfather asked the boy, "So what did you think of Mass?" And the boy answered, "The man up front talked a lot." Some preachers think that effective preaching means long preaching.
Some preachers don't know how to address a Sunday congregation without using religious or theological language. Other preachers think that homily time is catechism class and that God's Word is well presented if the people know their dogma. Protestant ministers often string along Bible quotes while Catholic preachers quote saints, popes and bishops - kind of pulling out the big guns to authenticate their message. Some preachers never speak a controversial word because they're afraid someone won't like what's said and make a report to the bishop or withhold a donation.
I think the needed preaching reform might begin with each one asking "Do I love Jesus - really love Jesus - as he is discovered in no other book than the Gospels?"
We might notice too that the demon knows who Jesus is already: "I know who you are, Holy One of God." We'd expect the evil one to divide the people with a lie, but here the unclean spirit can't help himself. Overwhelmed with the truth of Jesus, he blurts out that Jesus is undeniably God's Holy One. He knows his time is up, that Jesus has the power. Isn't it interesting - the unclean spirits know who Jesus is - but we often don't.
Lastly, the demon uses Jesus' name. It's a power play - kind of like my mother sternly calling me Stephen Peter when I was a boy in trouble. We're all divided people. We've got a foot in both worlds: heaven and earth. We're each still taken by, obsessed with, or compromised by some earthly way. It takes great personal insight and a deep truth to know and acknowledge this.
Will I let Jesus have the power? What would change in me - my relationships, my family, my nation, the Church if I (we) gave Jesus the power which rightly belongs to him as God's Holy One? Don't think of how others would change, only myself.