sabato 27 gennaio 2018

«Quidnam est hoc?»

Last Sunday, Mark told us what was the content of the preaching of Jesus during his public ministry: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” We pointed out that this announcement was made by Jesus not only once, at the beginning of his ministry, but it sums up the teaching of Jesus during all his ministry. OK. But we could ask: “What did Jesus actually do during his ministry?” Mark answers this question portraying, at the beginning of his gospel, a typical day of Jesus.

Jesus was a good Jew; so, on the sabbath, he used to go to the synagogue for the weekly prayer. He was a rabbi, that is a teacher; so, during the service, he was allowed to stand up, read Scripture and explain it. It is what the scribes usually did. But the people perceive a difference between Jesus and the scribes: Jesus, unlike the scribes, teaches “as one having authority;” his teaching is “new” and “with authority.” What does it mean?

Mark does not tell us what Jesus actually taught in the synagogue of Capernaum; but we can suppose that he announced also there the coming of the kingdom of God. That is why the people found Jesus’ teaching “new.” The scribes, in their teaching, limited themselves to quote the doctors of the past; Jesus, on the contrary, brings the good news of the kingdom of God.

But what astonishes more the people is that Jesus teaches “with authority.” He does not report the thought of others, but speaks in his own name—“as one having authority.” But this authority is not a simple personal authoritativeness, that is, an ability to exercise moral suasion on others. This authority is a real power, which makes Jesus’ word effective. Jesus does not limit himself to speak, but he does what he says. His word is like the word of God—a creative word. At the beginning of the Bible we read: “God said: Let there be light, and there was light” (Gn 1:3). Similarly, now Jesus says to the demon: “Come out of him!” and he comes out of the man. The people express their amazement saying: “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” Jesus’ teaching is more similar to that of the prophets than to that of the scribes. The scribes utter a lot of empty words; the prophets accompanied their words with miracles, because their words came from God. That is why in the first reading we have heard the promise of a prophet-like-Moses, a promise that finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 

But Jesus not only commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man; he also orders him to be quiet. Why? Because he knows Jesus: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Unlike men, demons know the true identity of Jesus—and for this reason they fear him, because they know that he can destroy them. But Jesus, at least for the moment, does not want the news to spread; it is too early for the people to know who Jesus really is; they could misunderstand. For the time being, it is enough for them to be amazed and wonder: “What is this?” (Quidnam est hoc?) There is time for an answer to this question.