Sunday January 31

Gospel of Mark 1:21–28

He taught them as one having authority.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

In this Gospel we witness a confrontation between good and evil. However, good and evil are not equal powers. Goodness will always prevail. In this Gospel the people witness Jesus’ power. They witness his authority.

If genuine authority is about goodness and the courage to call out what is evil, we have to learn to cultivate our gift of discernment of the Spirit.

Mary Ward had genuine authority as a leader. She was skilled in discernment. She cultivated it through her practice of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Learning to listen to what was life giving and rejecting what wasn’t life giving.

I will do these things in love and freedom or not at all. (Mary Ward 1585-1645)

Mary’s companions recognised her capacity for loving others, even so much as truly loving her enemies. Thus, I expect Mary was not only able to distinguish good from evil but to see deeply into another’s heart, love and understand them despite their actions.

The first step in cultivating the gift of discernment is to spend time in the loving gaze of God.

Can I imagine being loved before I was even born? Can I imagine being loved into existence?

In my prayer time I stay in this sacred space of loving gaze a while and I notice what feelings and insights arise in me.