The Church Speaks the Truth!

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 18: 15-20; 1 Cor 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28
Deacon Larry Brockman

I suppose it’s just human nature, but the fact is that people just don’t like to hear the plain truth. And they especially react to the truth when it is spoken with Authority. This is typical in today’s world because many people question absolutes. And yet, the truth is in fact an absolute, isn’t it.

And so when someone comes along who speaks the truth- the plain, unfiltered truth- and that person has authority to back them up, well, that is threatening because it means no amount of, wells, yes buts, on the other hands, and the like matter. The person in authority can and will be able to counter them. Evil reacts to truth presented this way.

What is an absolute truth, for example? Well, there either is a God or not. If there is a God, then certain things are morally wrong because they go against God and his plan for creation. And so, there is such a thing as sin. That also means there are truths that flow from the basic truth. God exists, and moral right and wrong and sin flow from that basic truth as a consequence.

Now in the Old Testament, the Israelis were exposed to the plain, unfiltered truth when God spoke directly to them. They didn’t like that; it was fearful because the voice of the Lord and the fire that accompanied it terrified them. And so they pleaded with Moses to appeal to the Lord for a softer approach. Today we hear from Moses that God promised to send them prophets like himself.

Notice that God will put his words in these prophets’ mouths. So, even though the prophets were to act as a buffer, they were still speaking the truth; and God told the people to listen to them. The authority of the prophets was established by the works they performed- a series of miracles and accurate predictions of the future. But make no mistake about it their main purpose was to tell the truth, God’s truth. They did that faithfully, even though many of them suffered greatly as a consequence. For example, Jeremiah was thrown in a cistern and left to die and Isaiah was sawn in two.

Of course, Moses promise was also fulfilled by Jesus Christ as well. Jesus was the word of God incarnate, and spoke the unfiltered word of his Father.

Now the Gospel says that Jesus spoke with authority. If one has “authority”, that means they have the right to do what they are doing. In government, authority is acquired by being elected, or by designation form a higher authority. In education, authority is established through knowledge of the topic. When speaking on behalf of God, authority is established by the ability to show the works of God.

Certainly, the Old Testament prophets established their authority by working miracles and by accurately predicting the future. Jesus worked even greater miracles, and thereby established his authority. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ authority has more of the authority that comes from educational knowledge to start out with. For Jesus was teaching, and he spoke about God with the ring of truth that not even the “authorities” of the Jewish faith, the Chief Priests and Rabbis could compete with. This frightened the evil spirit in the man in the temple just as the truth always frightens those who are evil. The evil spirit basically validated Jesus’ authority by recognizing Jesus for what he is- the Son of God.

It is just as essential for us to listen to God’s prophets and to listen to Jesus today as it was for the people in Moses time and in Jesus’ time. That is the basic message in both the Gospel and our first Reading. The problem is that our world is full of authorities- people who are experts, people to whom elected officials have delegated power. Our challenge is to determine which voices out there hold legitimate authority and then to listen to the truth that is spoken by the legitimate authority.

The best place to start is with the Church. Jesus delegated his authority to his Apostles and Disciples. And this has been embellished by the great doctors of the Church and Saints over the last two thousand years. We have an obligation to listen to the Lord speak through his Church. The Church speaks the truth; and the truth will set us free- forever.

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