"The people were astonished with his teaching, for he taught with authority and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22).
May years ago I was invited to offer a retreat. I was young and filled with ideas and enjoyed sharing them. After one of the talks, a woman thanked me, but also offered this insight. She said there was a difference in tone and confidence in my voice when I shared from my own experience and when I was offering an idea I had gotten from a book.
I think about this comment when reading today's Gospel, in which the people knew that Jesus was speaking with authority, unlike their scribes, who were only offering second-hand ideas from their reading of the Law. Jesus was obviously in touch with the source of truth, and so his teaching was fresh and convincing.
We read today about the remarkable birth of the Prophet Samuel. It was clear from the beginning, even before his conception, that God was blessing the life and service of Samuel. God called him as a child, and this intimacy was evident every time he spoke. His word had authority.
Jesus, as God's own Word, always spoke authentically. Even when he read from the scriptures, his personal authority brought the words to life. They came true as he uttered them. People could feel the truth in his voice, and familiar passages took on new meaning, as though spoken for the first time.
We begin reading Mark's Gospel this week, and it emphasizes that Jesus had authority over the whole spirit world. Unclean spirits and demons were some of the first to recognize that Jesus was stronger than the spells they had cast over people in order to possess them. Even Satan, the prince of demons, fled before the authority of Jesus.
To be formed by the Word of God is to live in the authority of truth. If we listen deeply, cultivate an intimate attentiveness to the voice of Jesus, no illusion or lie can insinuate itself into our spirit or delude us with false promises. Let us be disciples, knowing that if we are, we cannot be misled.