1 Cor. 7:32-35,
“What is this teaching? Who is this man, really? Where does he come from?” All these questions were swirling around Jesus as he began his public ministry and they would continue until his life and ministry climaxed in his death and resurrection. Today’s liturgy presents the answer: Jesus is the great prophet that Moses promised, and he is the Holy One of God with absolute authority over evil spirits.
The Israelite people asked Moses for an intermediary with the Lord God because they were afraid of hearing the voice of God directly. “Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see the great fire any more, lest we die.”
Moses told the people that the Lord says, “I will raise up a prophet like you from among your own kin.” This is a prophecy of the Incarnation some 1250 years before it happened. Jesus is the great prophet “from among their kin.” Jesus is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.
Speaking of this prophet that he will send, “The Lord says, ‘I will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.’ ” Jesus would later say of himself: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
There are several attention-catching items in today’s gospel. First of all, we note the authority in the teaching of Jesus, which astonished the people.
Then there was a man in the synagogue with an unclean (evil) spirit. The spirit cries out through the man and says, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” Interesting, because when the devil tempted Jesus in the desert, he prefaced his temptations with, “If you are the Son of God…” At this point, however, the answer is clear to the evil spirit.
When Jesus rebuked the spirit and ordered it to come out, the man convulsed and uttered a loud cry. The people were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
Jesus is the prophet promised by God through Moses He is the promised Messiah who manifests his Messianic authority in teaching and exorcism. The signs are there for all to see. Some do see and believe but, unfortunately, many don’t.
St. Paul writes that celibacy is advantageous for serving the Lord, allowing a person to have an undivided mind. The unmarried are anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. The married are divided between the things of the world and pleasing their spouse. Paul makes it clear that this is his counsel, not a commandment, so as to serve the Lord without distraction. But he also said: “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).
We can see here the Scriptural wisdom and basis for priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite, which can be traced back to the 4th century – over 1700 years in the Church!
MESSIANIC AUTHORITY TO BUILD GOD’S KINGDOM
In recent weeks, the liturgy has presented Jesus as being on a mission – to build the kingdom of God. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. He called his first disciples. And today he is shown entering the synagogue at Capernaum (the ruins of which I have been privileged to visit). There Jesus exercises his messianic authority by preaching and casting out evil spirits. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus still exercises that same messianic authority in our midst today.
As we pray in the Responsorial, Psalm 95: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” May we never harden our hearts as we listen to his voice!