“Christian, remember your dignity,” Pope St. Leo the Great wrote, contemplating that God emptied himself of His divine attributes to become truly man like us – yet remaining truly God, a Divine Person. Did Jesus lower Himself to become like us, or did He elevate us to become like Him? St. Leo saw it all as a call to participate in Jesus’ divine nature, to become like the Holy One of God.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we were made for a little while lower than the angels, yet crowned with glory so that all things are subjected under our feet. Yes, the suggestion is that even the angels are subject to us, when we act or speak according to God’s will.
And so it is, that armed with such knowledge, we enter into today’s Gospel reading. Jesus was just beginning His ministry. We are taken to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. The people who walked in darkness there, were about to see a great light. (Is 9:1) First, the Light called Simon and Andrew, James and John to follow Him – then He entered the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. This was a special synagogue, for it had been built under the sponsorship of a Roman Centurion, a God-fearer. Even today, we can see the original basalt foundation stones of that synagogue and in a sense visualize the Light that Mark records shone that day.
It was customary for a guest, especially a rabbi, to be offered the opportunity to comment on the readings of the day. The men would be seated and Mark notes that Jesus taught that day. “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Here, we find the first distinguishing feature of Jesus’ teaching. While the scribes were men who had authority to speak, the astonishment came from the fact that only Jesus spoke with authority.
We have all seen them. People in a position of power who speak only because they have been given authority – but not with authority. So Jesus was different, and Light would overcome darkness that day, because the very next thing we observe is the approach of a man with an unclean spirit – a man possessed with an angel loyal to the prince of darkness.
Darkness speaks first: “Tis emoi kai soi? What have you to do with us? I know who you are – The Holy One of God.”
Light responds: “Quiet. Come out of him!”
You are there. You look around, everyone is stunned, yet waiting for what would happen next. Moments pass. Finally, the man convulses with a loud cry, and spits out the demon. You know the man, he looks stunned. He knew the strength of the demon inside him, but now everyone knows the authority of the Man who even the demons obey! They all resolved to talk about this man, and His fame spread accordingly.
So, Christian, remember your dignity. Even the angels will obey you. Act accordingly.
Hebrews 2: 5-12; Psalm 8; Mark 1:21-28