Jesus Begins His Ministry

9 January 2007: Tuesday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1, 21-28: The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry

The story of Jesus according to Mark presents some natural steps for someone who embarks on an important career. Jesus is recognized in John’s proclamation that his role was only to prepare the way for someone greater than he. Jesus is then baptized, and then receives the blessing and recognition from God. With the Holy Spirit descending on him, Jesus is now equipped for his ministry. Then his principles are tested by the devil in the desert. From then on, he chooses his disciples to whom he would pass on his message. With all of these in place, Jesus launches his career in the synagogue.

The synagogue is a logical place for a launch. You see, when we launch our CD albums, we go where our market is. Jesus went to the synagogue. First, the synagogue is like a school: the faith is taught there. Jewish law has it that synagogues can be put up wherever there are at least ten Jewish families. A synagogue session consists of a prayer, the reading of Scripture, and then the explanation of the Scripture. Second, since people gather there, it is the perfect place for someone with a religious message.

The people who heard Jesus teach were spellbound. No one teaches with authority and power. And not just that: Jesus supported his teaching with his deeds: What he says, he does. Jesus was an excellent teacher. He profoundly affected those who listen to him and thus built a foundation for values and beliefs, our society and our way of life.

Today, we look at the teaching aspect of being Christians. We preach with our words. But only when our words are products of accumulated lessons taught, learned and lived over a lifetime, the impact of what we say is stronger and influential. Sometimes it is a phrase or a word spoken, deliberately or mindlessly, in a critical moment of vulnerability, that begins an action, adds an encouragement or the beginning of wisdom. It is what we remember and affect us in timeless ways. Someone once said that we can accelerate learning for all students, especially the problematic ones, by building relationships. Using powerful, positive words is a great way to begin a trustworthy relationship. I have a story.

A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they say how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.

When he got out, the other frogs said, “Did you not hear us?” The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him to entire time.

The words we speak are powerful. Just as Jesus’ words affect us, we too are invited to use words that will build up, not tear down, someone so that behaviors are positive. A wise teacher said that if you want to save and inspire students, you don’t have to tear down their house, but merely suggest or show them a better house in which to live. Henri Amiel once said of what teachers are: “The highest function of the teacher consists, not so much in imparting knowledge as in stimulating the pupil in its love and pursuit. To know how to suggest is the art of teaching.” Jesus has given us a better alternative to just living.

It is no wonder why he healed a demon-possessed. Demons in those days are called mazzikin, one who does harm. Teaching allows us to fight against the demons of ignorance and limitations. In order to be a good ‘teacher’, whether as a parent or a friend, we help people discover their greatness and possibilities within themselves. I guess that is what we need today. We are in a world that discourages people than encouraging them. In a highly competitive world, the Christian preaches with powerful words of affirmation and compassion. And thus, we ask this question for reflection today: Do I build up people, or do I destroy them? Give concrete examples when you build up people, and when you destroy them. With words that give importance to people, all of us Christians will help build the Kingdom of God which Jesus first launched in a synagogue.

*xavier university high school 4A 1997, my moderating class. Dondino, Brent, Niku and Kenneth were just four among the all-boys 49-member class. They were 15/16 years old when I taught them Christian Humanism and English. Their class was my inspiration during my two years of Jesuit regency. Their lives aided me to finally pursue priesthood.

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