Monday, August 29, 2016

"THEY WERE ASTONISHED AT HIS TEACHING."


Homily for August 30th, 2016: Luke 4:31-37.

          “Jesus taught them on the Sabbath,” we heard in the gospel, “and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority.” And a few verses later Luke, the gospel writer, tells us that following a dramatic healing, “they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.’”

          The people who hear Jesus realize that he speaks “with authority.” What does that mean? It means that he spoke differently from the other religious teachers they were accustomed to hearing. Those teachers interpreted God’s law. Jesus spoke not as an interpreter of God’s law, but as the law-giver. Read the last part of chapter 5 in Matthew’s gospel, for instance, and you will find Jesus citing one Commandment after another, and then saying: “But I say unto you.” After citing the Commandment which prohibits murder, for instance, Jesus says that it applies not only to killing another, but even to the emotion which leads to killing: anger. (Cf. Mt. 5:21-23)  Citing the Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” Jesus says that it applies even to lustful thoughts. (Mt. 5:27f.)

          The people who hear Jesus are also amazed that he has power to heal people with a mere word. The man whom Jesus heals in today’s gospel is possessed, Luke tells us, “with the spirit of an unclean demon.” In a pre-scientific age without blood tests, microscopes, or X-rays, that was the normal way to explain illness. The demon throws the man down and at Jesus’ word comes out of him, “without doing him any harm.”

          Jesus still speaks to us today: in Holy Scripture, in the teaching of his divinely commissioned Church, and in the still, small voice of conscience. His word still has power to convict people of sin, changing their lives, and setting them on the right path – to Him. When people pray to Him and listen to his words, there are still miraculous healings which no doctor can explain.

“Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus says, “my words will never pass away” (Mt. 24:35 NEB). How better could we respond than with the familiar prayer: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”