Homily for February 1

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

In the synagogue in Capernaum,
the reaction to Jesus was – amazement!
 “A new teaching – with authority!”

How might we have responded?
Would we have welcomed the authority of Jesus’ teaching
and his authority over anything that might have a hold on us:
perhaps not an unclean spirit, but any of the things
that hold our hearts hostage and in need of healing?

We live in a culture often suspicious of any authority
-- beyond the personal authority of the self.
Over the relatively short span of the past 50 years,
we’ve moved from accepting institutional authority
as above and beyond our questioning
to the appointment of the self
as the primary arbiter of truth and morality.

The authority of a social order based on love of God, nation and family,
(rooted in church, patriotism and tradition)
has largely given way to a society
at pains to defend every individual’s supposed right
to personal autonomy and authority –
sometimes and even often at the expense of the common good
and with serious consequences for the rights of the most vulnerable.

But rather than wonder how we might have responded
to the authority of Jesus’ new teaching
in that ancient synagogue at Capernaum,
let’s look at how we respond to the authority of Jesus’ teaching
newly announced, every week, here in our church in Concord center.

So, a few questions to ponder…

• What authority do I give Jesus over my life?
over my decisions and choices?

• What authority do I give Jesus over the “spirits” that take hold of me:
my weaknesses,  desires, and habits,
my temptations, jealousies and envy,
my anger, resentments, grudges and old hurts?

• What authority do I give Jesus over how I pastor this parish?
And, what authority do spouses and parents here give to Jesus
over how they live their marriages and raise their families?

• What authority do I give to Jesus’ teachings
over how I shape my politics and form my opinions?                   
over my one vote in the democratic process?

• What authority do I give Jesus over my possessions:
over how I get what I have? how I use what I’ve got?
how I share what I’m blessed with?

But then there comes a deeper question…

Is it likely I’d  hand over all this authority – any of this authority -
to someone I don’t know very well?

Is it likely I’d surrender this kind of personal authority
to someone I’ve heard a lot about – but never met?

Do I know Jesus well enough give him authority over my life?

And if I sometimes, even often, find myself reticent
to let the authority of Jesus supersede my own, is that because
I don’t know him well enough to trust him?
I don’t trust him enough to love him?
I don’t love him enough to follow him?

As recently as my own youth,
folks gave Jesus authority over their lives because --
someone in authority told them to do that!
But if we don’t trust the authority figures in lives,
and to whatever degree each of us has become
his or her own authority,
then handing authority over to Jesus isn’t likely going to happen
if we don’t really know him…  don’t freely trust him…
don’t truly love him… don’t faithfully follow him…

I might very well think, I might very well believe
that I know and trust and love and follow Jesus
but the test of that lies in how much authority I freely give him
over my life, above and beyond my own.

I’m grateful that these readings and this homily come
just a couple of weeks before Ash Wednesday and Lent
because that means there’s a whole season just ahead of us
for getting to know Jesus better,
for learning to trust him more freely,
for coming to love him more deeply
and for beginning to follow him more faithfully.

As surely as Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Capernaum,
he stands among us and speaks to us in the scriptures today.

And he joins us at the altar
where we acknowledge in the Eucharist,
as did the people in Capernaum,
that he is the Holy One of God.

Through the power of his Spirit and with the authority of the Cross,
Jesus is revealed and we reverence him
in the Bread and Cup of our table.

May the Holy One of God whom we receive here in Communion
fill our minds, our hearts and our spirits with his grace
and help us more and more to surrender to his authority,
to the power of his truth and healing in our lives.

To know, trust, love and follow the Lord...
Day by Day by Jonathan Larson on Grooveshark

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