As you know, we have been taking a tour through our five core values as a parish, in light of our mission “to live and share Christ’s call to holiness.” We have spoken about our desire, as a parish, to be rooted in a reverent sacramental life, and to encourage and support each other as one strong family united in Christ.
This week we will reflect on our third core value: “We live our lives in faithful and joyful communion with the Catholic Church and her rich tradition.”
We live in fidelity to the pope and bishops in communion with him (the “magisterium” of the Church) because of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit upon them, guiding them in the process of proclaiming certain truths of the faith and judging the authenticity of certain traditions. [See Jn 14: 16-17] Their authority is a sharing in the authority of God.
“But I Say to You”
In today’s Gospel, we see that authority incarnated in Jesus Christ. He is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, as he often did. Those who heard him were astonished because he “taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” [Mk 1: 22] We must point out that authority exercised in the name of God is different than the authority of Jesus. The prophets and scribes, for example, were restricted to proclaiming, “Thus says the Lord,” but Jesus spoke in his own name. This is part of what amazed those who heard him teach. In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord repeatedly taught using the formula, “You have heard that it was said…,” followed by, “But I say to you….” [See Mt 5: 21-38] The authority Jesus possessed was different than that of anyone who had come before or would come after him. It was authority in his own name that was not of this world.
This is an important truth to keep in mind as we reflect on our third core value. There are two worlds that surround us – the one we see and the one that is invisible. Scripture often describes them as the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit. In the life of the spirit, the authority of Jesus is evident. As we see in today’s Gospel, even the unclean spirits obey him. [See Mk 1: 26] The Roman centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus understood the difference in their authority. He said to Jesus, “I too am a person subject to authority with soldiers subject to me…and I say to one ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes.” [Lk 7: 8] But the centurion knew that the authority of Jesus was of a different kind, and trusted that the Lord could heal his servant simply by willing it.
The Life of the Spirit
As a parish, we recognize that the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit cannot be separated. Rather, when we live the life of the spirit, the life of the flesh takes on a new dimension. In Eden, the flesh-and-blood lives of Adam and Eve were united perfectly with the life of the spirit. We desire that the same unity be present in us, though we know it will be hidden by a veil for now.
To live in faithful and joyful communion with the Church is to trust that our lives have supernatural meaning. We can be like the little shepherd children of Fatima, offering ourselves in faith for others, though rarely seeing the real impact our prayers and sacrifices may have.
This was true even for Mary! She was conceived without sin and full of grace, but she was human. She could not see the full impact of her “yes.” And what if she had? Would we then be able to say that she is the model of faithfulness for us? She is our model of perfect faith and trust in the Lord precisely because she couldn’t see, and yet kept offering herself. She trusted in the authority of her Son, even when darkness and human authority seemed to prevail. She believed, as we do, that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.