Bread in the Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

All Saints Catholic Church

The readings from scripture for this coming weekend are: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20, 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35, and Mark 1: 21-28. The message is clear: God’s Word has power, if we let it.

The first reading has Moses saying something that we can now attribute so perfectly to Jesus: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among your kin, and I will put my word into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.” For our ancestors, there was “power” in words; especially of they came from the mouth of God.

And Jesus became centuries later the very “Word” of God. In Mark’s narrative under discussion, we have Jesus exercising the power of His word; he was able to confront the evil spirit within a man and not run from the man because he would have made himself unclean. The evil spirit counted on Jesus not wanting to become unclean. If someone had an evil spirit the faithful would shun the person lest they become unclean. So, it gave evil spirits the freedom to roam unchallenged. Even having the man in the synagogue would have made the “clean” a target of uncleanliness.

But Jesus spoke as someone with power and authority and the evil spirit recognized this and even challenged Jesus: “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” Jesus, not afraid of becoming unclean, ordered the evil out of the man. And now, not only was Jesus not unclean but neither was the man.

That is why those in the synagogue said: “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Remember, this story comes at the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel. It was the story that set the tone of the whole gospel. Jesus spoke with authority and none of the purity codes would prevent him from exercising that authority.

We claim to be followers of Christ, at least many of us do. What “power and authority” do we give Jesus’ words? Do we see them as a challenge to us to live a new way, a way that empowers us to want to remove the evil spirits we find?

Jesus spoke with authority and power. Those powerful words come to us for a response. If we simply see them as a personal comfort and not as words that compel us into action for others, we will be like our ancestors who were afraid of becoming unclean and simply turned away from pain and suffering, hunger and thirst of those who were not “clean” like they were.

Being a Christian today is not for those who have a “me and Jesus” faith and ignore those who Jesus cared for the most: the poor, the sick, or the ignored.