A reflection by Fr. Frank Hegel, SFM, on Mark 1.21-28

Today’s Gospel relates the first public event in Jesus’ life recorded in Mark’s gospel. It talks about conflict and tension. Jesus comes to Capernaum and preaches in the synagogue – he penetrates the symbolic place that is the domain of the scribes. The people do not know what to think. They are amazed at his knowledge and his apparent authority, but they do not recognize where the authority comes from, for it is not teaching like that of the scribes. They are intrigued by his words, but they do not recognize who he is.

Just then, Jesus encounters a demon and performs an exorcism. The people are perplexed. The demons, however, recognize him right away and understand that he is a danger to them. They know who he is and that he can command them and destroy them. They try to gain power over Jesus by naming him, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

The demon then asks, “Have you come to destroy us?” It is interesting to reflect on this question: upon whose behalf is the demon pleading? Chad Meyers says that it is the scribal aristocracy whose authority undergirds the dominant Jewish social order. So, then, the conflict between the scribes and Jesus is established from the beginning of Mark’s gospel.

Word spreads of this unusual event, but the people do not know what to make of it. Would we? Do we recognize God as he walks amongst us everyday? Do we recognize his voice bringing us wisdom and comfort? The demons know him and fear him, but shouldn’t we, who know him, seek him as well – and follow him?