Cycle (B) 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deut. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 7:32-35; Mk. 1:21-28

 In the ancient world it was customary that when a king conquered a kingdom, he rebuilt the city as he wanted. Alexander the great conquered Egypt and resolved to leave behind a populous and large Greek City which would bear his name. Thus the world famous city of Alexandria was built. 

We see a number of examples in the Old Testament. The story of the Israelite conquest of Jericho (Joshua 2-6) is one of the best known and best loved in the entire Bible. After wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years, the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land from opposite Jericho. Before making the crossing,

however, Joshua, the Israelite commander, dispatched two spies to reconnoiter the city. Narrowly escaping capture, the spies brought back valuable intelligence collected from Rahab, a harlot who lived within the city wall. Although the Jordan was in flood at the time the Israelites crossed, the waters were miraculously stopped and the Israelites were able to cross "on dry ground." They then marched around the heavily fortified city daily for seven days. On the seventh day, to the blast of the ram’s horn, the walls came tumbling down. The Israelites rushed into the city and put it to the torch.  They destroyed the city completely and a new city was built.

When we read these accounts it might seem very cruel but it had a very clear purpose. The kings did not want the customs and traditions of the old kingdom to continue. They did not want the evils practices to exist. They did not want the people to cherish the memories of the previous king. Because they might tempt them to return to the old. Hence they destroyed whatever seemed to be contradicting the new order.

When Jesus began his ministry, his first act was the same - destroy what was not acceptable in his kingdom. In the synagogue, there was a man who was troubled by an unclean spirit. Jesus cured him by casting out the evil spirit.  Everyone in the ancient Biblical world feared evil spirits and believed in demonic possession. People believed that demons or “unclean spirits” living inside afflicted people caused their leprosy, lameness, paralysis, etc.  After the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God cursed the devil and announced that his victory over man would not last for ever.  Someone would one day come that would defeat him, and his power would be destroyed completely.

In the First Reading, we heard of God's promise to Moses that He would raise up for us a prophet. He would put His words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to the people everything that He commands. [Deut. 18:18] These words echo the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John where it says, "... The word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me." [Jn. 14:24, 17:8, 17:14]

Today's Gospel tells us that Jesus entered the synagogue and taught in Capernaum. Those who heard Him were astounded at His teachings because He taught with authority, not as the scribes. Here, the authority of Jesus is compared to a rabbi who has the power to impose a decision with a binding authority.

"There is an old story about some linemen who were busy putting up telephone poles through a farmer's fields. The farmer ordered them off his land, whereupon they showed him a paper giving them the right to plant poles wherever they pleased. Not long afterward a big, vicious bull charged the linemen. The old farmer sat on a nearby fence and yelled: 'Show him your papers, darn ye, show him your papers!'"  Jesus authority is not in papers. Jesus’ authority comes from the acceptance of his very mission. It is seen throughout the New Testament where He overthrows the rule of Satan, the Prince of this world, by establishing the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Gospels give the accounts of Jesus’ open defeat of the devil. Jesus defeated the devil in the desert where he was tempted. Jesus defeated the devil through out his life. Like a powerful commander Jesus went on dislodging his enemy from all his positions; from the souls of men, from the sick people, and from the people who were mentally suffering. The final battle was won on the cross, when Jesus made his final submission.

Jesus’ victory over the evil must be completed in each one of us.

Listen to the words of Dr A.P. J. Abdul Kalam

If there is righteousness in the heart,

there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character,

there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home,

there will be order in the nation.

If there is order in the nation,

there will be peace in the world.

This is our mission. Each one of us has to fight. Victory is assured only to those who fight courageously. Jesus has provided us with the most powerful weapon to defeat the evil. A weapon that has been tested and used for centuries – “Resist evil with good”. People who have successfully used this weapon are called great men. The church has set before us a number of such great and heroic men who have successfully applied this principle in life. We are also called to be with them. Jesus has given us the authority to do it. We require only the courage to begin the journey.