Daily Reflection
September 5th, 2006

Tom Bannantine, S.J.

School of Nursing
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1 Corinthians 2:10b-16
Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13ab, 13cd-14
Luke 4:31-37

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 lasts.

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