An armed robber stops a vehicle on the freeway, shows his gun to the passengers and begins to search them one after another. After dispossessing them of all their valuables, he enters his car and zooms off. A few minutes later a policeman, in his uniform, appears on the same freeway, stops the same vehicle, shows his ID to the passengers, and begins to search all of them while asking some questions and taking notes. Now the question, “what is the difference between the armed robber and the policeman?”
To the above scenario and the question, answers may vary. To my mind, the difference between the armed robber and the policeman is explainable by the difference between power and authority. The Armed robber was able to stop the vehicle and to ravage the passengers through the power of the gun. The policeman, on the other hand, was able to stop the car and to search the passengers leveraging on the authority conferred on him by the government as a law enforcement agent which his uniform and identity card confirmed.
Today, the more significant chunk of the narrative from the First Reading (Deut. 18:15-20) and the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:21b-28) tell us about authority. Authority has to do with the legitimate power one has to carry out an activity. We could then understand power merely as the ability to act without a legal right. Authority is usually accorded to the recipient for instance in a genuinely democratic election, while power is often self-assumed for example in despotic military rulership.
From the narratives of the First Reading and the Gospel, authority is linked to prophecy. Why? The answer would become more evident when we understand whom a prophet is. The word prophet comes from the Greek “prophetes” which means a spokesman or if you like one who speaks for another. Prophecy, therefore, entails speaking for another person and for one to speak for another person, the individual needs an authority. This explanation settles the confusion among many people that assume that a prophet is only able to see the future. The prophet could speak about the past, the present or the future but always following God’s direction and authority.
In the First Reading, God promised to raise a prophet after Moses who would speak to the people in a way and manner that would yield more results. We could take that prophet to be Joshua because he was the immediate successor of Moses. However, the personality of that prophet could be found more profoundly in our Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel Reading today makes it very clear.
In the Gospel Reading, we learn that our Lord Jesus Christ taught with authority in the Synagogue to the amazement of the people because he taught them with authority. Whose authority? We can answer this question appropriately by making some biblical references.
- 10: 1. Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority.
- Matthew 11:27. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
- John 3:35. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
- 28:18. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Next, in our reflection is the distinction between the voice of authority and the other voices we hear in our society today. We are living in a world that is reeling with a lot of voices. Today, we have a lot of so-called “prophetic voices” that excel in deception while gathering worldly fame and financial fortunes for themselves. There are also many people speaking for themselves and not for God. In the First Reading, God warned Moses thus:
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle I have not commanded him to speak or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.
In the Gospel narrative, we also learn that an unclean spirit (a demon) living in a man heard and acknowledged the voice of authority of our Lord Jesus Christ before the man was set free from the demon. If demons could listen to and accept the voice of authority what about us? We all are like the man with the unclean spirit, and we should acknowledge that at every level in our lives there is a devil that could be blocking our ears and hearts from hearing and accepting the voice of authority and we need deliverance from all of them.
God is speaking to us now through His words, are we ready to hear and accept the voice of authority or are we still listening to other distracting voices around us? The voice of the world, selfishness, anger, immodesty, jealousy, irreligion, and other things that give rooms to demons in our lives? In the Second Reading today (1 Cor.7:32-35), St. Paul urges us to be the ideal virgin or unmarried woman who is anxious about the things of God. What are you concerned about in your life at the moment?
As we march into a new week let us continue to ask God for the grace to assist us to listen always to the voice of authority that would help us to gain everlasting life. Have a lovely Sunday and great days ahead.