Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus and his followers went as far as Carpernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught with authority.
In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it; he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
In his Apostolic Letter for the Year of Faith, Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI says in the first paragraph:” The door of faith is always open for us... It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace”.
When Jesus began to teach in the synagogue his teaching made a deep impression on the people. The word of God was being proclaimed by Jesus, and they had already begun to allow their hearts to be “shaped by transforming grace”. As his reputation spread others would be affected in the same way.
In considering the effect that the teaching of Jesus had on others a key word must not be overlooked. People who were profoundly affected by his teaching allowed their hearts to be shaped by transforming grace. They were not passive or disinterested spectators, even though they may have been standing or sitting still. They allowed the teaching to affect them.
For the people in the countryside who heard about Jesus, another factor came into play. What they heard would have excited their curiosity, and for many people who were later to become followers of Jesus, curiosity would have been the force that propelled them to go and listen to him.
In any one day we are subject to many competing demands for our attention, and many attempts to draw us into someone else’s field of influence. Politicians, charities, marketers of products and many others all compete for our attention.
Suppressing our natural curiosity and walling off our head and heart – often expressed as cynicism – can be ways of keeping some personal space free from these pervasive forces. But we can also unwittingly close down the curiosity which attracts us to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the openness which allows us to be “shaped by transforming grace”.
The people in the synagogue allowed the teaching of Jesus to affect them deeply. We have that same decision to make on a daily basis.