4 th Sunday in Ordinary Time 1 February 2009
We live in very uncomfortable times. We definitely live in very controversial times. We look for a leader who will give us hope, show us the way out of the dark tunnel we find ourselves in into the light.
It reminds me of a scene in the movie The American President, in which the president -played by Michael Douglas - was put in a tight spot by one of his aides:
“ People want leadership and in the absence of true leadership they will listen to anyone who steps up the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage and when they discover there's no water they'll drink the sand.”
Leadership means that one has authority. As human beings, whatever authority we may be given is limited. As Christians, whatever authority we have must be subject to the greater authority of Jesus Christ.
Let's look at today's readings:
In our First reading, from Deuteronomy, we find Moses toward the end of his life telling the people that a “prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you, from among your own kin . . .” In the ages that followed, many prophets arose, from Isaiah to Zechariah, yet none of these had the authority that Moses was to have among the Rabbis and teachers in years to come. In fact, each Rabbi was able to trace his educational lineage back to Moses. Rabbi So-and-so was taught by Rabbi so-and-so, and so on before culminating in Moses.
Fast-forward about a thousand years. Jesus comes on the scene and starts teaching, “You have heard it said, but I say . . .” The “you have heard it said” refers to the Hebrew Scriptures that the people were familiar with, especially the first five books of the Bible, called the Torah. This threw the Jewish people, and especially the Rabbis, scribes and teachers for a loop, because they put all their stock in Moses as their teacher and Abraham as their father. Yet, Jesus comes along and casts Himself as a higher authority than Moses, and teaches that God can raise up children of Abraham from the stones.
So now Jesus shows Himself as an authority in His own right. The Rabbis of Jesus' time always referred to an authority other than themselves, always traceable back to Moses. Yet Jesus is His own authority, has an authority given Him by God the Father . . . and people by the thousands are following Him.
Yet how do they know His authority is legitimate? A man possessed by a demon breaks into the scene and cries out, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” Jesus then casts out that demon, and the people are astounded. They now realize His legitimate authority.
Yet Jesus has an authority that was not just for His time, but for all time. His teaching, His gospel has been handed down to us from one generation to the next through the Church, from Jesus to Peter, to Peter's successor, and so on. (much the same way as Moses' pedagogical pedigree was handed down.) Yet, do people nowadays recognize the legitimate authority that Jesus still possesses? Once we follow Jesus, He will have the demos within us expelled so we can clearly recognize the truth. People today are thirsting for true leadership because they are thirsting for truth. When they don't find it, they will drink the sand, and when they drink the sand they lose their ability to recognize truth.
It seems that leaders today think that they possess the sum total of authority – the buck stops with them, so to speak. Yet, their authority has gone too far. Their priorities have been so confused that the very dignity for human life – God-given human life – has been supplanted by the economy. When human beings supplant human life and human dignity with something man-made (something meant to serve mankind rather than to be served by it), then human society has been taken over by a demon. This clearly tells us that we need Jesus Christ, our only true leader, with the only true authority, namely of God the Father, to cast out this demon.
For our part, we need to follow Jesus teaching that demons such as these can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. Let us be willing to call upon Jesus through prayer and fasting so that the demons of our age may be cast out.
Many thanks to Fr. Robert Barron's podcast http://www.wordonfire.org