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  • Writer's pictureFr. Gustavo

"Be quiet!"

A person trying to discern Jesus' voice
Listening to Jesus among the din of the world

The Epiphany Season: 

Following the Star of Jesus


Follow, believe, be quiet, speak, listen…


Those are some of the words that Jesus used all through his early ministry and that we are going to explore during the next few Sundays. What was Jesus trying to say? And what those worlds would mean for us today?


Perhaps not every single event in our Lord’s life as it was recollected in the gospels is equally intense and dramatic.  Yes, indeed, they are all important but, what I am trying to say is that not all the events in our Lord’s life were as dramatic as his Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

 

Having said that, nevertheless, almost every single event in our Lord’s life has something striking or even perplexing.  A case in point is today’s Gospel.

 

All through the early weeks of this season of Epiphany, we are learning about the early days of our Lord’s ministry.  This year our lessons are mostly based on the gospel of Mark, which in itself has its own peculiar flavor. 

 

For instance, Mark’s gospel is short and direct, lacking filler words.  And, interestingly, when Mark refers to Jesus doing something, Mark uses the present tense.  So, rather than writing “Jesus went somewhere”, Mark would rather write, “Jesus goes somewhere.”  Of course, in most English translations the sense of urgency and actuality that the original present tense conveys is, sadly, lost.

 

So, for the time being, suffice to say that when Mark writes something, it is important.  Which brings us back to today’s gospel.

 

As we just heard, Jesus still had not developed a large following.  He is starting his ministry – alone.  Alone Jesus goes to Galilee.  Mark, and the other evangelists say nothing about what Jesus did, say or even what he was thinking along his forty miles walk.  Other than that, when Jesus arrives by the Sea of Galilee, he had made his mind and began calling his first disciples.  And together, as a small band, they move on.

 

Eventually, they all arrive to Capernaum, which lies on the lake’s western shore.  There Jesus preaches his inaugural sermon – which may be found in Luke 4, but not in Mark!  What Mark records, however, is the sequel to the sermon.

 

First, Mark tells us that Jesus was not a regular run of the mill preacher.  By our Lord’s time, most rabbis would refer their teaching to what the famous Rabbi Hillel had taught.  Many rabbis had learnt at the feet of Hillel, and he was held in high esteem.

 

One thing that everyone gathers is that when Jesus teaches, he assumes authority over what he says.  Or as in the original words, Jesus felt free to tell the crowd, “These words have been fulfilled in your ears.”  And later Jesus would say, “You may have heard that – but now I’m telling you…”  And, of course, his great sermons beginning with an unapologetic, “I am.”

 

So, from the very beginning of his ministry it became clear that Jesus had decided to be himself, the Christ of God, the Son of the Living God.  He was not bound to anyone.  Jesus was Jesus.  Indeed, Jesus is Jesus.  And it is on such premise that Jesus must be accepted or ignored – even today. 

 

But, most strikingly, what happens next is extraordinary.  So much so that Mark, rather than including the sermon, decided to tell us what happened nex.

 

While they were at the synagogue it appears that a man began shouting, “Jesus of Nazareth, why did you come here to hassle us?  I know who you are – The Holy One of God!”

 

What it is most extraordinary is that what the man cried was one hundred percent true!  Jesus of Nazareth is the Holy One of God!

 

In other words, there was no one else.  That was it.  And then, no wonder that some people became upset for such claims.

 

For, if anything, Jesus came to rock the boat.  I know, Jesus calmed the sea.  But otherwise, his ministry was one hundred percent upsetting. 

 

While the crowds were looking for a proud warrior like David or Judas Maccabaeus, Jesus was smacked, pushed around, and eventually put to death.

 

While the religious leaders were looking for a very capable preacher who would toe the official line, he upturned tables and shook the establishment.

 

While the Roman authorities were worried that Jesus would turn up violent, he challenged them.  Yet, Jesus willingly submitted to their power – even when Jesus knew, and the authorities knew that power was not theirs at all.

 

So, the poor man at the synagogue was being truthful.  He wasn’t making up false stories.  So then, why did Jesus shut him up?

 

I know that you have read a lot of bible commentaries and heard lots of preachers trying to explain why Jesus wanted the man to keep quiet.

 

And of course, many would say, “Well, the man had to be healed, right?”  Which it appears what Jesus eventually did, ordering the unclean spirit to move out.

 

But, even so, why Jesus wanted the man to shut up?  Wasn’t our Lord’s ministry about proclaiming the Kingdom of God?  Then, why shut down free advertisement?

 

Mark is quite probably the earliest gospel, written long before Matthew’s, Luke’s, and of course, John’s accounts.  For many, Mark’s Gospel was the first account of our Lord’s life and ministry they were able to hear. 

 

So, to understand Mark’s Gospel, we need to look at it with fresh eyes, asking questions – “Why, O why?”  Or, perhaps, taking our Lord’s cue, we should quiet the voices that might be drowning our Lord’s own voice, and listen only to what Jesus says.  Remember the use of the present tense?

 

So, since then it is not what theology or preachers say about what Jesus said, but listening carefully to what our Lord has to say.

 

Now, we all hear voices.  And not, I am not referring to “that kind” of voices.

 

As we are social beings, communication is essential.  From running away from danger to interaction with family, friends, and society at large, we need the ability to hear others. In fact, the ability to hear other human beings and even the environment tells us, it is what makes us who we are – social beings.

 

 

But as we grow up, communication patterns grow more complex and, sometimes even confusing.  Sooner or later, we will learn not only to listen other voices but to our own inner voice.  And so, the inner voice of our experience, our fears, our doubts, and hopes begins to add an extra layer to the world of voices in and around us.

 

         And soon enough other voices begin to add theirs – advertisers, politicians, influencers and yes, crazy loonies too!

 

Even within our Christian faith quite frequently there are striking differences between what one can hear from some Christian groups and from others.  For instance, wine or grape juice?

 

And here is why I believe Jesus ordered the spirit to shut up.

 

I believe it is because we need to learn to listen to the voice of love, our Lord’s own voice.  And to learn to listen to what Jesus has to say.  With no additions and interpretations – just a one hundred percent unfiltered Jesus.

 

Which, I am afraid, it is not what we always want to hear.  Of course, hiding behind theology, or what the great teachers of religion have to say about what Jesus said is not only easier, but offers us cover.  And, conveniently, it helps us to void facing the hard questions for which we would rather avoid. 

 

But those are the voices that need to be shut out of our lives.  In John’s gospel (10:27), the story is told about Jesus teaching the crowds, “The sheep know their shepherd’s voice, and they follow him.”

 

No.  It doesn’t mean to do whatever and say, “But Jesus told me!”  Like this preacher in Colorado who fleeced his flock by millions of dollars, because “God told him to do it.”

 

But it means that the road to healing and redemption starts at the point where we shut down everything else and we begin to listen to the voice of love, the voice of Jesus.  The voice of He who calls us by name, and loves us to the end.

 

Let me close with the best advise that I can offer you.  At the Mount of the Transfiguration a voice thundered, “Listen to what Jesus has to say!”  Blessed we will be if we take the hint.

 

Fr. Gustavo

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