September 5th, 2006
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
School of Nursing
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Throughout history great leaders have arisen to lead peoples and
nations and kingdoms. There have been such leaders from ancient
times until the present. I'm thinking of leaders like Alexander
the Great, Hannibal, Constantine, Tamerlane, Charles V, Suleiman
the Magnificent, and Napoleon. All of these leaders ruled vast territory
and were followed by great numbers of people. Not all of these leaders
were good men. Some of them abused their leadership and made life
worse for their followers. All of these leaders died and eventually
the empires they ruled disappeared.
In today's gospel Jesus is presented to us as a great leader. He
is shown to be a teacher, an exorcist, and a healer. This visit
of Jesus to Capernaum takes place at the very beginning of his public
life here on earth. Jesus has not yet attracted the huge crowds
that were to follow him later. He is able to visit the synagogue
and there teach the people. Later on such visits would be impossible
because the huge crowds that followed him were too big to be accommodated
indoors. But in this scene we see that Jesus is already a leader.
His words (the teaching) and his actions (the exorcism) demonstrate
his leadership. After this visit to Capernaum the number of people
seeking to see and hear Jesus would steadily grow. St. Luke tells
us that the people were astonished by his words and amazed by his
exorcism of the evil spirit. We can well understand that they were.
But we may ask what there was about Jesus that marked him as a leader
and made the crowds want to follow him? The people of Israel had
heard great teachers before. They had also witnessed exorcisms before.
So what was it that made Jesus a leader, a person who was listened
to and respected. What was it that made people want to follow him?
I think that St. Luke answered this question when he said that Jesus
spoke and acted with authority.
The dictionary tells us that authority is power or influence resulting
from knowledge, fame or prestige. The authority of Jesus comes from
the fact that he is God. As God Jesus has infinite knowledge and
prestige. As man Jesus was able to communicate that knowledge and
prestige in a way that demonstrated the authority of which St. Luke
speaks. When Jesus spoke and acted with that authority, people were
moved to seek him out and to follow him. The result of Jesus speaking
with authority was that news of him began to spread throughout all
of Galilee and people began to come from all the surrounding area
to see and hear him. When I pray over this gospel scene and the
many others like it I am sometimes envious of the people of Galilee
who lived in the time of Jesus and were able to see him and listen
to his words. But such thoughts help me to realize how important
it is for me to seek to know Jesus better and to follow him more
closely through prayer in my own life.
Jesus is a great leader, but unlike the leaders mentioned above,
his kingdom is not an earthly one. And unlike the kingdoms of these
earthly leaders, his kingdom survived and grew larger after his
death. It will continue to grow and survive as long as this world
to the writer of this reflection.
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