For Sunday, January 29, 2012
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
As the Republican primary marches on to Florida, the surprising rise in the polls of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has put the Mitt Romney camp into hyperdrive. Recent news reports detail the fact of a $5 million broadcast ad buying spree in Florida by a Romney associated super PAC. That is on top of a previous buy of $8 million that aired commercials throughout Florida even while the South Carolina primary was still on the horizon.
In discussing the Republican primary, many commentators focus on the divide that persists in the party. Members of the more conservative wing are just not settled on Mitt Romney as the man to be their standard-bearer. Week after week on the PBS Newshour, political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks have reflected on the fact that Romney's poll numbers stay the same, often just enough to win. But he does not excite the Republican base.
As commentators would describe it, the GOP faithful keep looking for another candidate. Some thought Rick Perry was the man. Apparently many are now thinking seriously about Newt Gingrich. Others had hoped New Jersey governor Chris Christie would have gotten into the race. And some still yearn for a run by the person who will give the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels. When looking for a perfect candidate, it always seems to be the one that is not running.
This weekend's Gospel portrays Jesus as the unexpected one. The scribes, who were the teachers and interpreters of the law, based their opinions and explanations on the Scriptures and on earlier interpretations. Rather than striking out on their own, they communicated what they themselves had learned, handing on a tradition based on the authority of the past. People knew what to expect from one of the scribes. There were no surprises.
Jesus, on the other hand, teaches from his own authority. Instead of resorting to the past, his word comes from within himself, revealing the action of God. The authority of Jesus is totally new, and not at all what the people in the synagogue at Capernaum expected from a scribe. Itinerant teachers visiting the synagogue from time to time would have been a common experience. But these men would have relied on the authority of tradition, and not on the authority of person that Jesus exercised. His teaching came from within himself as the Son of God.
Having been exposed to the teaching of Christ all our lives, we may not think of it as new. When we go to church on Sunday, we may even be a little bit like some of the members of the Republican party who are looking for something fresh in a candidate. We might be looking for something fresh in our experience of Christ.
But if we take the time to delve into it, we will see that the teaching of Christ, as old as it is, is indeed very new, because it applies to our lives today. When Jesus came, he took on the realm of evil. The power and strength of evil to dominate humankind was broken by the Holy One of God. Jesus gave us the opportunity to be reconciled with the Father once and for all, and in that reconciliation to be united in God's healing love that restores us in God's grace.
Unlike the search for a "perfect" candidate, who will never be found, our search for the truth finds its fulfillment in the one teacher, Jesus Christ. Though his message may have first been heard in that synagogue in Capernaum long ago, it remains new for us today as we discover the ways that it enters into the choices we make in our daily lives.
Jesus was not a candidate in the Iowa caucuses. He wasn't on the ballot in New Hampshire or South Carolina. He isn't running for office in the Florida primary. And he won't be standing for election this fall. But his teaching must inform our choices, and we must uphold his message as we communicate with those who serve in public office. We may look for someone else for whom to vote. But as followers of Christ, we already have One who teaches with authority.
your Son reveals your truth through his teaching.
Help us be faithful to his word
and give us the courage to put it into practice in our lives.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
Catholic Schools Week runs from January 29–February 5. Info and resources from the NCEA can be found on their Web site at: www.ncea.org/news/CatholicSchoolsWeek.asp.
FORMING CONSCIENCES FOR FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP
Bulletin articles, podcasts, Scripture study, lesson plans, discussion guides, and worship ideas are all available from the USCCB in this election year. Make it a New Year's resolution to plan how you will use these resources in your parish in this election year. You can access all of these items at: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/.
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