In the very first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, the people of Capernaum are heard to say: “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” As we approach the end of the Gospel, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel question Jesus’ authority: “By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?” These two statements stand like book ends framing the Gospel. While the common people were able to recognize Jesus’ authority, the three groups of men who embody the entirety of the elite Jewish political and religious power cannot bring themselves to the same kind of acceptance.
When Jesus asks them a question, rather than answer it they lie. Rather than answer the question and thereby convicting themselves of their corruption, they lie thus showing that they are incapable of speaking with authority, and therefore have no capacity to understand, or good-faith reason to be told, the truth about Jesus’ power and authority.
To be able to handle the truth, one must be open to it, not be afraid of or embarrassed by it. However, because Jesus is a challenge to their own authority, they hide behind a lie. Unfortunately, those in power today are often guilty of the same kind of prevarication.
The last chapter of the Book of Sirach brings this book to a close with the very same commitment with which it began – the search for wisdom. Sirach gives thanks for the fact that he has been open to wisdom and sought it in prayer.
When we approach Jesus, we seek to know him better. We ask him to help us grow in faith, to teach us how to love more fully, and to conform us every more closely to himself. We accede to his authority – rather than question its source – and in doing so we are entrusted with and empowered to act in his name, announcing the Gospel and leading others to him. What a gift we have received in Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator