Obeying Jesus in his Astonishing and Amazing Authority, First Tuesday (I), January 13, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Hilary of Poitiers
January 13, 2015
Heb 2:5-12, Ps 8, Mk 1:21-28


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  •  As we began Ordinary Time yesterday, we pondered the double message the Church gives us to set our spiritual table for the year, that Jesus is the Word who summarizes in himself all that God wants to communicate to us, how God took on our nature precisely to communicate to us by his words and witness in a way most fitting for us as human beings, and how that Word made flesh inaugurated his public ministry in the fullness of time with the eruption of his kingdom telling us to do four things: repent, believe, follow him and fish for men and women.
  • Today on this second day of Ordinary Time, the Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel of St. Mark build on these lessons. The Letter to the Hebrews says that this Son who says it all, even though he was higher than the angels and the angels were created through him, was made “for a little while lower than the angels,” taking on our nature so that he could “suffer death … that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” This was so, being made “perfect through suffering,” he might lead “many children to glory” precisely through suffering. Jesus humbled himself in this way not simply to speak to us about this glory to which we’re called by the Lord who is mindful of us and cares for us but to show us the path of salvific suffering and lead us through this suffering to glory. The Word speaks to us through his body language so that he might say to us both “this is my body given for you” and “do this in memory of me.” This is the nature of Jesus’ consecration coming into the world. We’ve been speaking throughout this Year for Consecrated Life about how Jesus during the Last Supper prayed, “I consecrate myself for them so that they may be consecrated in the Truth.” He did all that he did so that we might be sanctified. That’s why the Letter to the Hebrews says significantly, “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin,” namely God the Father and the depth of his fatherly, saving love. Because of this origin, because of this consecration, because of this love, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers’ saying: “I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.” Jesus has come to proclaim the Father’s name and praise to us so that we can join him in the Father’s home. That’s who Jesus is and that’s what he’s about at the general level.
  • We see how Jesus goes about accomplishing that missing of announcing to us God’s message, of communicating to us the name and praise of God, of leading us to perfection through suffering, in the Gospel. Right after Jesus began his public ministry and called his first disciples to follow him, he entered the Capernaum synagogue and began to announce and incarnate God’s word through teaching. St. Mark tells us, “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” The Scribes would teach by citing Moses, or Scriptural texts, or rabbinical commentaries. Jesus taught in a different way. He spoke with authority because he is the Author of the world. As we’ll see throughout his public ministry, he’ll say things like, “You heard that it was said… but I say to you.” He would say that he himself is the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth and the Light. Jesus communicated with a directness and power that came from the fact that he was the origin of what he was speaking about. And the reaction of the crowds was astonishment. They were amazed and said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.” Jesus showed his authority and the power of his words by the exorcism of a possessed man who happened to be in the synagogue at the time. The very presence of Jesus, his holiness, irritated the demon beyond belief. It convulsed the man and cried out from within him, “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!” And Jesus rebuked the spirit, told him to be quiet and finally to “Come out of him!,” and the spirit obeyed, an unforgettable sign of the authority with which Jesus speaks.
  • The question and the challenge for us is whether we are amazed and astonished at Jesus’ message, at Jesus’ healing work, at Jesus himself as he speaks to us. If we are amazed and astonished at Jesus’ teaching, if we recognize he speaks with an authority unlike any other, than we will do what people do when they’re amazed: we’ll behave as if we can’t possibly get enough of his teaching. We’ll devour the Gospels. We’ll seek to enter much more deeply into his words through Bible Study and prayerful lectio divina. We’ll long to meet those who can open up the Word of God to us and help us to experience anew Jesus’ amazing and astonishing authority. There are some Catholics who live this way. Their fingerprints are all over their Bibles, they can’t read enough Scott Hahn books, and they can’t keep themselves from sharing all they’re learning. They begin to grow in their love of God and knowledge of Sacred Scripture more than the most rabid Patriots fan gets for Pats’ playoff games by watching all types of programs throughout the week on the NFL Network and ESPN, listening to sports talk radio, reading newspapers and websites and more. But most Catholics unfortunately don’t live astonished and amazed. When given a chance to spend a half hour reading the Gospels or watching Pat Sajak and Vanna White spin the Wheel of Fortune, they choose the latter. They don’t come to Bible Studies when they’re offered. They don’t read or pray the Bible on their own. They think the best homily is not the one that opens up Jesus’ amazing authority in Sacred Scripture and applies it to their lives but rather the best homily is the shortest one or the one that makes the laugh the most. It’s key for us at the beginning of the year to rediscover this sense of Jesus’ amazing and astonishing authority and come to Mass each day hanging on Jesus’ words, words that are meant to change our life each day forever.
  • Today the Church celebrates a model of someone who was captivated by Jesus’ teaching, sought to enflesh it and spent his life trying to help others to be amazed by it and saved by it. St. Hilary of Poitiers  was a pagan, married neo-platonist philosopher who upon reading the Old and New Testament writings, was blown away by their wisdom and with his wife and daughter became Christians. He learned the faith so well that after the death of the bishop of Poitiers, the Christians elected him as their bishop. One of the first things he tried to do was to defeat the Arian heresy, which taught that Jesus wasn’t really God but just the greatest creature who had ever lived, a heresy that is diametrically opposed to what we’ve heard the last two days in the Letter to the Hebrews and what the demon said in today’s Gospel passage. His life shows us how once one is truly amazed and astonished by Jesus’ authority and places oneself under that authority, one’s who life is changed and one wants to spend the rest of life helping others’ lives to be changed in the same amazing way.
  • Today as we pray this Mass on his feast day, we ask him to pray for us that we might be as blown away by Jesus as he was, enter into his consecration, receive the Father’s mindful care to the full, obey him  s even better than the demon obeyed him in the Gospel, and give our life to help everyone else discovering the astonishing and amazing Treasure whom we’re about to consume.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 HEB 2:5-12

It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come,
of which we are speaking.
Instead, someone has testified somewhere:What is man that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under his feet.

In “subjecting” all things to him,
he left nothing not “subject to him.”
Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,”
but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor”
because he suffered death,
he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,”
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
He who consecrates
and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers” saying:

I will proclaim your name to my brethren,
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (see 7) You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.

Alleluia SEE 1 THES 2:13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of God, not as the word of men,
but as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:21-28

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
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!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.