1/10/17 – Tuesday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time
The gospels, as reports of the presence and deeds of Jesus, sometimes provide us momentary glimpses of what the reign of God looks like. Today, the Kingdom of God is a synagogue, a classroom. The first verses depict a perfect symphony of teaching and learning, of authority and discipleship – of generosity, sensitivity and comprehension on the part of instructor and openness, attentiveness, and suspension in the moment on the part of those listening. Because teacher and audience are so mutually attuned, the authority of the former is automatically impressed upon the minds of the latter. Jesus requires no external authority or human office to win hearts over to his authority. His pedagogical talent, industriousness and empathy are enough. This is our Brother, our Teacher, our God.
Cacophony, however, is introduced by an unclean spirit. The disorder it presently manifests is anxiety: whereas the rest of the people in the synagogue learn of the Father – and implicitly also of Jesus as the image of the Father – by tranquil patience and attentiveness, the demon jumps to the end of the lesson too quickly. In fear and foreboding, it already knows who Jesus is: “the Holy One of God.” The spirit proves its diabolical nature in its anxiety at Jesus’ presence, which it understands to imply its own self-destruction. Thus anxious, the spirit shouts and screams, disrupts and disharmonizes; it itself cannot listen to the words of Jesus, and it will prevent others from doing so as well.
Jesus addresses the spirit: “Quiet!” He will not tolerate a disruption of his lesson. It is clear that Jesus wished his audience not to hear the confession of the demon, who, by too hastily identifying Jesus with God, would sow confusion, bewilderment. The moment of insight into Jesus’ true identity was not yet ripe; the students required more tutelage, gradual training, increased trust in his teaching. Though the scene ends with the crowd’s amazement at Jesus’ authority, both in word and deed, there emerges even here a foreboding of the cacophonous confusion over Jesus’ true identity in the events of the Passion.
However, the first part of the passage presents to us an image of heaven that we can treasure and ponder in our own hearts. We know that the affliction of anxiety prevents us from approaching God in confidence, that it can tempt us to establish our worries and preoccupations as an obstacle to God, even an accusation against him. However, today I pray to feel the tenderness of the heart of Jesus the Teacher, who mourns and quiets our anxiety and would have us only learn a little about life, day by day, in patience and trust.