They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28
The Gospel reading for Sunday January 28 was very much in tune with this great article by Deacon James H. Toner, Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Air War College, and author of Morals Under the Gun.
This summer of 2018 we will be half a century away from 1968, the year where everything began to change. The contraceptive pill was fairly new, the Beatles had released their Sgt Pepper album the previous year, Jimi Hendrix was all the rage and so were pot, LSD, and other drugs. The baby boomers of the West were well on their way to leave a mark in the culture. Behind all the outrageous clothes and lose sexual mores, there was a cry to “question authority”.
Only half a century earlier, in 1918 a terrible war was ending in Europe. After that war the old Western order was altered forever. Most of the crowned heads of Europe were no longer relevant and lost their authority. Some lost their heads along with their crowns. Exactly four centuries earlier, the authority of the Pope had been questioned by Luther.
In time, the authority of kings, and nobility was questioned as well. By the mid 1800’s it was time for the new and powerful industrial age bourgeoisie to be the target of the non-authoritarians. By the end of World War II, a tired mankind decided to take a break and have some law and order for a while. The last assault on authority was left for the baby boomer generation, roughly the same generation that now fills the ranks of the political left in Europe and America.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one who marched with the students of May 1968 in Paris, now is working to legalize pedophilia, for example. Things have changed. In the old USA the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer declare — without any detectable glimmer of shame — that anyone in Mexico, Syria, or Colombia has more authority to determine who enters the US territory than the President, especially if that President happens to be Donald Trump. “People are crazy and times are strange” whines Bob Dylan, the same Dylan of Blowing in the Wind fame. We could go on and on …
The question lingering is simple: is there any rule left that everyone is willing to obey?
I quote from Deacon James Toner’s article.
Herberg’s thesis was as perceptive as it was succinct: “the moral crisis of our time consists primarily not in the widespread violation of accepted moral standards . . . but in the repudiation of those very moral standards themselves.” The moral code of the Greeks, based upon reason, and of the Hebrews, based upon Revelation, had atrophied, he wrote, to the point of dissolution. We were “rapidly losing all sense of transcendence.” We were adrift, by choice, in a sea of disorder with no “navigational” standards to consult. The Moral Crisis of Our Time.
In that context let us go back to the words of Jesus quoted at the top of this article. Jesus addresses the synagogue in Capernaum. He must have really opened the Scriptures because his listeners did not question his teaching. The doctrine Jesus was expounding was impossible to deny, it had authority.
One kind of authority is the one that comes from reasoning so powerful and clear that cannot be questioned. The kind of reason behind phrases like “We hold these truths to be self-evident …” capable of sending the word marching in a new direction. Behind authentic authority there is always truth. Behind true authority there is always power. The ultimate power is the power of God, there is no other. The secret is to align oneself with divine power by serving the truth.
We know that the authority of God has been challenged by the powers of darkness. Have you noticed that the power of God remains unchallenged? The prince of darkness is no fool, he knows that is one battle he cannot possibly win.
Back in Capernaum, the man possessed by an evil spirit cried to Jesus in the Synagogue: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” There is no way to deny truth when the power of God is so close. Even the darkness within us have to surrender to the light. Check these words by Fr Stephen Scheier, who experienced a powerful vision of personal judgment:
I was before the Throne of Judgment! Jesus Christ was the Judge. I didn’t see Him, I merely heard Him. What took place was instantaneous as far as “our time” is concerned. He went through my entire life on earth and accused me of sins of commission and omission that were unconfessed and therefore unforgiven and unrepented sins. To each offense, I said, “Yes, Lord!” I had planned that when this would happen I would have all kinds of excuses to say to the Lord. For example, “Well, Lord, you know, she was a pretty feisty woman, and one lost his patience very easily with her all the time!” Well, when you are talking to Truth personified, you don’t have any excuses; so all you say is “Yes, Lord!” (Taken from God’s Merciful Judgement.)
The spirit holding that poor man of Capernaum was misusing his measure of power. A simple rebuke by Jesus sufficed to liberate the victim: “Be silent, and come out of him!” When it comes to struggling with God Himself the powers of darkness can’t do noting but surrender. It is not wise to use whatever limited power we are given to oppress others.
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
The reasoning of the people is simple but powerful. What Jesus is teaching must be very close to God’s power and truth because its authority cannot be denied, not even by an evil spirit possessing a man by force. There is the main revelation: the power, authority and truth of God are working before their very eyes to free mankind. Freedom is the natural result of truth.
The fruits of the summer of 1968 are now before us. A pervasive and poisonous kind of moral anarchy has taken over the world. The smoke of Satan has entered the Church, as Pope Paul VI used to say. Contrary to the teaching of Jesus, this “teaching” has no authority, no truth, and no real power behind it. It is just the screaming echo of the demon of Capernaum:
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
The opposite of truth: news media is used to lie to the public.
The opposite of authority: the culture denies and despises all authority.
The opposite of power: there is no real power, only deception.
The opposite of freedom: the forces of anarchy seek to enslave mankind.
The only thing that can follow from this lack of authority, truth or divine power is a gruesome form of slavery. The dictatorship of relativism spoken of by Pope Benedict XVI and typified in the Gospel by the spirit possessing that poor man, a spirit so bold that dared to enter the Synagogue and listen to the reading of the Word of God. That kind of spirit is affecting the world and the Church in our time.
The only question left is: when is Jesus coming to declare the truth and liberate the world from its oppressors.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2: 7-8