“Mommy, who broke the baby?”
The teaching of Jesus is described as a “new teaching with authority” for several reasons. It is fundamentally a teaching about truth. Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). As he begins his ministry at Capernaum in Galilee, his teaching astonishes the listeners because it is anchored on restoring the value of human life. At the time of Jesus, other teachers (Scribes, Rabbis, and Pharisees) existed. They also taught, but their teachings revolved around the Mosaic law. Jesus’ teaching was not just one of those teachings but was superior. Jesus, himself was not just one of those Jewish teachers, He was the teacher. The disciples called him “Rabbouni” meaning teacher or master, the one who has the words of eternal life.
Mark highlights the authority of Christ at the encounter with the man possessed by an unclean spirit. As soon as this man sees Jesus, he shouts in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” The presence of Jesus terrifies the unclean spirit. The demon knows that Jesus is going to expel him from the man. The unclean spirit becomes agitated in the presence of the power of God and exclaims, “I know who you are -the Holy One of God.” With authority, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to leave and frees the man. Everyone is amazed at the teaching of Jesus because of the authority behind it.
In this passage, we see the destructive influence of “unclean spirits” once it possesses a person. Individuals possessed by unclean spirits are shut out from normal life. Unclean spirits create anxieties in their victim causing discomfort around the presence of Christ. Unclean spirits belong to the dark forces and cannot withstand the light. As John writes, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1: 4-5).
Just this Friday, January 28, I attended a March for Life with St. Philip Neri parish praying in support of life. A large group of local people walked approximately two miles around the vicinity of the church. An instructive incident happened. We were praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet while displaying different placards that read, “No to abortion, yes to life.” “Linthicum marches for Life.” “Love Life.” As we approached one of the traffic crossings, the police held the traffic with a lineup of cars waiting for us to cross. One particular lady in the passenger seat of a car started shouting angrily at us, “Go home. What is your business?” She looked very upset and agitated. I turned to this woman and with a smile, I blessed her and made the sign of the cross in her face. She cursed the more, but we kept moving.
When the March for Life was over and Fr. Austin and I were driving back to the rectory, we talked a little about that woman and why she was in such a frenzy at the sight of a group like us. She was obviously angry and possibly pro-abortion. We are seeing aggressive behavior like this more frequently in society today; people shouting and yelling at the sight or even thought of an opposing view from their own. Why are people so angry these days? Isn’t anger an unclean spirit that needs to be driven out?
We live in a society that has also hijacked and distorted language. This is a work of the evil one whom Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning … for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jn 8:44. We’ve taken words like choice, which of course everyone wants, and made it a code word for murder. It’s a lie. We give unborn babies labels like fetus or fetal tissue to dehumanize them. But deep down, everyone knows it’s a baby. We know it’s a child but many choose to shrug it off like Cain (the first murderer), “Am I my brother’s keeper.” Yes, in fact we are our vulnerable babies’ keeper.
There was a book written years ago by a woman named Jean Garton who was a teacher in a medical school. One night in the late 1970’s, Ms. Garton was looking at some films of an abortion. She stopped to view one particular slide when her 3-year-old child snuck out of bed and was peeking at the slide behind her. The child asked a very simple question that totally changed her life, “Mommy, who broke the baby?” She went on to write a book with that title defending the unborn and became an ardent pro-life advocate for the rest of her life. “Who broke the baby?” We all know it’s a child not a choice, hence the prophet affirmed, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” If it’s not true, people like that woman would not be angry at us for marching to speak out against injustice to the unborn.
The truth is this, if you want to become unpopular, defend life. Uphold that truth, the womb should be the very place that should be the most sacred and safe for the unborn. There is a very beautiful litany called The Litany of the Unborn Jesus in the Womb of Mary. Here are a few of the invocations:
+ Jesus, whose Sacred Heart began to beat in the womb of Mary, +Jesus, whose Precious Blood first flowed through tiny veins in the womb of Mary, + Jesus, hidden nine months in the womb of Mary, + Jesus, whose holy limbs first budded in the womb of Mary, + Jesus, whose Godhead the world cannot contain, weighing only a few ounces in the womb of Mary, + Jesus, infinite majesty, once measuring only tenths of an inch in the womb of Mary,+ Jesus, helpless infant in the womb of Mary.
The incarnation of Christ shows God in such a vulnerable state as a defenseless unborn child. Isn’t that instructive and powerful?
Saint Paul said in the second reading of today, “Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties.” Our freedom derives from attachment to God and to gospel values. Thinking back at the action of this woman on Friday and thinking about the actions of those few persons who disrupted the Mass at St. Joseph’s cathedral in Columbus Ohio on January 22nd, for similar agitation, it is obvious that the battle against our Christian faith is going to get worse. We are not here to judge anyone, but the times are going to get tougher. The faith is going to be attacked more and more. Those possessed by the unclean spirits of abortion and assisted suicide are going to fight harder. What is their target? The vulnerable and the weak. Evil wants to silence you so it will reign supreme. That’s what happened in the case of the unclean spirit in the gospel. But Jesus gives us the authority to command evil, to say, “Be quiet, unclean spirit!” Paul invites us to be anxious about one thing, pleasing the Lord and doing his will.
By the time He sent the apostles out, Jesus reassured his them about his authority and invoked it upon them with the words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matt. 28:18-20) Through faith Jesus confers similar authority to all believers. Spiritual authority means relying on the name of Jesus through faith to do the task you have been given.
To battle unclean spirits of our time, believers must stand on the authority of the Master. It means we must speak the truth in love but without fear. It means we must proclaim a teaching superior to the popular teachings of our time. At the time of Jesus, his teaching was anchored on truth, not on popularity. The Scribes and Pharisees had the crowd but Jesus had the truth. They had the voice but Jesus was the Word. They had the power but Jesus was the Way. They had the connection but Jesus was the Life. The time of Jesus was hungry for truth, hence they found a new teaching with authority, Jesus the Way, Truth, and Life.
Truth is attractive even though unpopular. Let’s speak it, let’s stand on the truth. Even if you have dirty past, Jesus welcomes you. Let’s move forward in truth. Let’s stand on the gospel and not be anxious. Can you teach your children the truth without being anxious of what you stand to lose? Can you fearlessly defend life from conception to natural death? Can you make the things of the Lord your priority over pleasing anyone else in your life? Can you be the prophetic voice that this age needs to hear? “I came that they might have life, and have it in abundance.”