SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1CORINTHIANS 2:10-16; LUKE 4:31-37]

In the gospel, we are told twice how the people reacted to the teaching of Jesus and His works. With regard to His teaching, it “made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.”  Indeed, the authority of our Lord was different from that of the other rabbis and teachers.  Whereas they all referred to other authorities, namely God and Moses, Jesus preached in His own name and in His own authority.  He did not have to preface His words, with “thus says the Lord”, like the prophets and the teachers of the day.  He spoke from His own conviction and in His own person and in His own authority.

Not only did He teach with authority, but He also acted with authority and power.  Whether it is with respect to man or even the evil spirits, Jesus could command with authority.  When “the spirit of an unclean devil … shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?’  But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet!  Come out of him!’  And the devil throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all.” Just with a command, the evil spirit left the possessed man.  In contrast, the exorcists of His days had to recite long incantations and even used other objects and herbs to drive out the evil spirits.  Jesus did not need to say long prayers but simply at His word, the evil spirits obeyed immediately.

What gave Jesus that absolute authority that commanded respect and obedience? Jesus was fully aware of His own identity.  Hence, when the devil said, “I know who you are: the Holy One of God”, He told him to be quiet.  He did not need the devil to announce His identity.  He did not need the devil to affirm His identity.  He knew who He was.  Furthermore, in letting the people know His identity, they might mistake His messiahship as a political one.   Jesus knew the devil’s tactic to derail His plans.  As the Son of God, He was conscious that He was not acting by Himself but in union with the Father.  He was aware that He had the Father’s backing and support in what He was doing.   Everything He did was in according with the Father’s will and His plan for us.

Secondly, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.  After His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert.  He began His ministry in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not only acting by Himself but always in the power of the Holy Spirit.   It was the Spirit at work in His ministry, empowering Him to heal, to teach authoritatively and giving Him discernment and understanding that the human mind cannot understand or perceive. It was His docility to be led by the Spirit that enabled Jesus to do what He did.  Hence, we read that “astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching!  He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’  And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.”

In contrast, many of us, even as leaders, act without personal authority.  The only authority we have is human authority.  This is the authority that comes from our academic studies.  Just because we hold an academic degree on a certain subject, people will listen to us and respect what we say because we are supposedly experts in that subject matter.  But then many might disagree with us as well in our findings and analysis.   Intellectual knowledge and scholarship are not sufficient to command full authority from our listeners, especially when there are so many diverse opinions on every issue.  It is a matter of reliability but there is no guarantee of truth.

When academic authority fails, some exercise juridical authority that comes from the Office.   We use force and power to make them submit to our authority.  Using the power that comes from the office means to use the force of the law.  If you break the laws, you would be penalized accordingly.  So our subordinates and those under our charge obey us more out of fear of punishment than conviction or even understanding.  We cannot change the hearts of men through fear and punishment.  We only make them hostile towards authority.  They will await their chance to usurp our authority one day so that they can change the rules.

Finally, when that fails, many of us will use authority that comes from our connection with influential or powerful people.  We use them or name drop to get things done.  Indeed, we would quote this and that famous person to make our point because no one will respect us for our own opinions.  This was what the prophets and many teachers did.  When they taught, they would quote some established teachers and leaders to back up what they were saying.  Some of us may even use money and rewards to get others to collaborate with us.  By so doing we enter into that slippery path of corruption, cronyism and become obligated to them.

As a consequence, we destroy ourselves and lose our credibility as leaders.  St Paul makes it clear what an unspiritual man is. “An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit.”  Those who are unspiritual cannot understand or see beyond the superficiality of life for the eternal values.  They cannot understand why living a life of love and giving is better than simply acquiring things and wealth and power.  They are not able to appreciate why spending time with God in contemplation brings more joy and happiness than indulging oneself in the things of the world, like getting drunk, fighting, arguing and living in debauchery.  They cannot understand why sex alone cannot bring happiness without love.

Whereas a spiritual man understands what really matters in life.  He distinguishes the means from the end.  “A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men.  As scripture says: Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him? But we are those who have the mind of Christ.”  When we have the mind and the spirit of Christ, we will look at everything through the eyes of Christ.  This is what St Paul wrote elsewhere too, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2f) “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)

Thus, we need to ask for the Spirit of God to enlighten and guide us.  Only the Spirit of God can lead us to understand life the way God sees.  “The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.  After all, the depths of a man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God.”  Human understanding of the world will not bring us very far.  Science can help us in technology and knowledge of the world.  But science does not deal with the matters of the heart which is love and truth.  Science of course, when seen with faith, can help us to encounter God.  “Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us.  Therefore we teach, not in the way in which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us: we teach spiritual things spiritually.”

Thus, today, if we are serious in acquiring the Spirit of God in our lives so that we can discern and judge wisely, then we need to pray.  There is no other way to be filled with the Spirit of God except through prayer and contemplation of the Word of God.  He speaks to us through the Word and He fills us with His Spirit in prayer and through worship, especially through the means of the sacraments.  Only when we are imbued with His Spirit, can we then speak with conviction and act with courage and authority.