01 February 2009


4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:21-28

After they heard His eloquent preaching and witnessed His powerful casting away of an unclean spirit from a man possessed by it, the people commented about Jesus’ teaching: “This is a new teaching!” At first, I immediately thought that the people’s comment on Jesus’ teaching was wrong. Should they not say “new Teacher” instead?

“New Teacher”, not “new teaching”, I thought, was more accurate because Jesus was literally a new Teacher in Israel when the people gave Him the comment they have for Him in the gospel today. Indeed, Jesus was barely starting His public ministry that time. This episode is still in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark: Mk 1, 21-28. Jesus was yet a new face among the many rabbi of His time. This must also be the reason why people kept asking one another who Jesus was.

“New Teacher” instead of “new teaching”, I thought, was more correct because Jesus was not only a new face among the teachers of Israel but His method was also new. Was it not that at the very start of our gospel today, Jesus was already being compared with the Scribes in Israel? And the people had only one verdict: Jesus taught with authority unlike their Scribes. It is, therefore, clear to us that as far as the listeners of Jesus were concerned, Jesus was a Teacher better than their Scribes who were supposed to be experts in the Judaic Law.

“New Teacher” not only “new teaching”, I thought, was more exact because, in His teaching, Jesus did not only repeat what the prophets and teachers ahead of Him already said or wrote. Daringly and with full confidence, Jesus used expressions like these: “Amen, amen, I say to you” or “I tell you solemnly” or still “You have heard it said…,” then Jesus would conclude with “but what I say to you is….” Very clearly, Jesus was not only a new Teacher but a daring one as well because by these expressions Jesus was literally claiming that He was greater than the prophets who spoke the Word of God to them and even greater than Moses who gave Israel the God’s Law. Jesus’ word stands on its own because He Himself is the Word of God, the very fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Thus, Jesus was not only a new Teacher. He Himself was, is, and will always be THE Teacher; other teachers simply share in His teaching.

“New Teacher” instead of “new teaching”, I thought, was more appropriate a comment from the people in the gospel today. But that was what I thought at first because soon enough I realized that the people were actually right and precise with their comment on Jesus: Jesus Himself was indeed a new Teaching. His very Person is the lesson; thus, giving a lesson meant for Jesus giving Himself away. That was what made His teaching new. In the very Person of Jesus, the Teacher and the teaching are one. And there are two important points supporting this claim.

First, Jesus did not only teach the people about the Kingdom of God and its qualities; He showed them this Kingdom and its qualities. Thus, Jesus spoke about fullness of life in God’s Kingdom, and so He cured the sick and the handicapped, restoring life not only to the body but to the soul as well. Jesus spoke about the first being last and the last being first in the Kingdom of God, and so He openly mingled with the least, the last, and the lost. He said that the God in that Kingdom He preached about was forgiving, and so Jesus forgave every sinner who approached Him with a contrite heart. He said that the God in that Kingdom sets people free, and so He freed those who were possessed by unclean spirits, as we have in the gospel today. He also said that the Kingdom of God was like a buried treasure or a priceless pearl whose worth could not be anything less than everything in one’s life, and so He Himself left everything behind for the sake of that Kingdom. And He also spoke of the God in that Kingdom as a Father to all, and so He called God Abba and, teaching His disciples how to pray, He said, “When you pray say, ‘Our Father….’” In a word, Jesus Himself was the new Teaching because what He taught was Himself.

Second, and closely related to the first, Jesus gave humanity not only a new teaching but a new experience as well. Vis-à-vis His teaching on the Kingdom of God, for example, was making people experience already that very same Kingdom right here, right now. He did not only point to the Kingdom of God to them; He gave them an experience of that Kingdom. He did not only show them the Kingdom; He gave them the Kingdom. Is this not so beautiful even for us who live in the present age? For we have not only known about the Kingdom of God; we are actually experiencing it even now unto its fullness in the life to come. We have not only seen the Kingdom; we already receive it from Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Jesus showed the Good News He preached to humankind and, in doing so, He gave humanity the experience of that very news. This must be the reason why the first words of the gospel according to Mark are “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1). These words do not simply serve as an introduction to or a title of what Mark wrote; rather, through them he already gave the summary of what he wrote: The Good News. And that Good News is Jesus Himself!

So, the people in the gospel this Sunday were right after all: new teaching, not new Teacher. And the same can be true to our own teaching if we ourselves, in imitation of Jesus, would serve as the lesson for one another. Let us show to one another the Good News of Jesus Christ and give one another an experience of that very news.


At 5:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father, sana makapag-mass ka ulit dito sa Guadalupe. I heard that you're happy with your new parish, sana di mo kami nakalimutan. GOD BLESS.


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