4th Sun [B] 2000

Fr. Charles Irvin

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; I Corinthians 732-35; Mark 1: 21-28

Jesus goes to the synagogue in Capernaum with four of his disciples. He began to teach, as St. Mark reports, and as a result people are spellbound. A man in the synagogue, possessed by an evil spirit, recognizes Jesus as the “Holy One of God” who has come to destroy the spirits of evil. After Jesus casts out the evil spirit, the people in the synagogue are amazed at the power and authority that Jesus possesses. Thereupon they go out of that synagogue to spread his fame throughout Galilee.

I want you to note in particular the style of speech used by Jesus. He did NOT say “The Lord’s words for you are…” Nor did he say: “The God who sent me says this…” No. Jesus spoke in His own name, on His own authority. There is, you see, a big difference in Jesus speech here. He is telling everyone what He, the Christ is declaring to them. He is not speaking on behalf of God — He is speaking as God!

In another gospel account, St. Matthew, reports Jesus as saying:

      “You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers, ‘You shall not commit murder; every murderer will be liable to judgment.’ What I say to you is …everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.

“You have heard the commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ What I say to you is: anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts.

“You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers, ‘Do not take a false oath; rather, make good to the Lord all your pledges.’ What I tell you is: do not swear at all. Say, ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ when you mean ‘No.’ Anything beyond that is from the evil one.”

Perhaps we should again ask my favorite theological question: “Well… so what?” What’s this got to do with my religion?

Have you ever heard it stated that it really doesn’t matter what religion you have since they’re all taking us to God? You see, that sort of thinking flies in the face of what we just heard about Jesus Christ, both in these passages as well as in many others. Because if it is true that He is God made flesh for us, then it really does matter what religion we have. The devils themselves recognized him. Why did religious people refuse to acknowledge who He really is? It wasn’t the devils that gave Jesus a bad time. They simply vacated; they simply departed from His presence and went elsewhere to do their dirty work.

The people who gave Jesus a bad time were the religious know-it-alls, the one’s who thought they had all of the answers when it comes to religion and going to church. The more they realized that Jesus of Nazareth was really Someone, the more they understood what He was claiming to be, the more they wanted to get rid of Him. He spoke with God’s own authority. He was a terrible threat to the big know-it-alls.

Now there are many ways to get rid of Christ. You can try to kill Him, bury Him in a tomb and then post a detail of soldiers to guard that tomb. We know, however, how useless that was.

Another way is to simply ignore Him. Many have done that, are doing it now, and will do it in the future. The danger about ignoring him is equivalent to the danger of ignoring speed laws, warning signs, instructions on drug prescriptions, or directions on how to fly an airplane.

Still another way is to claim that Jesus is just another interesting religious figure in human history. You can simply decide that Buddha or Mohammed, or some guru from the Far East is just as good as Jesus it comes to journeying to God.

If that’s true, then why bother with going to church? Why not simply start your own church? I mean, after all, if you really believe that one religion’s just as good as another you can probably do as good or better a job with organizing a religion than the one’s we’ve got. But when you do, let’s see you cure people with various diseases, make the blind see, restore crippled limbs and raise people from the dead. Finally, and most importantly, let us see you rise from the dead three days after your funeral and burial service.

So is it really true that one religion’s just as good as another? Do we take the words and teachings of Jesus with ultimate seriousness or do we just relativize His life, death, resurrection and teachings? Is His voice just one of many?

Now I’m quite aware that all of you here do not do that. You wouldn’t be here listening to His words and receiving His Body and Blood if your hearts and souls were elsewhere. But you have heard members of your families reduce religion to something equal to a cafeteria choice by expressing thoughts declaring it doesn’t really matter. Will you simply let those statements pass by unchallenged? Will you let your children, your grandchildren, members of your family as well as your friends say these things without responding with your own convictions about Jesus Christ? We need to love them enough to call them to take Jesus of Nazareth seriously. After all, He really does speak with authority, and not like the others.

We’ve all heard a lot of talk about evangelizing. Evangelizing doesn’t mean that we have to go around town knocking on doors and preaching at others about our religion. It can be something far less difficult and far less offensive than that. Evangelizing can be as easy as simply and clearly stating the truth about Jesus and telling folks “We have never heard anyone else speak with such authority.”     

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”