[Excerpted from the January/February 2018 issue of Emmanuel. Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015.]
This section of Mark’s Gospel begins his description of Jesus’ public ministry. Today we deal with the first of a series of five cures; this will be followed by a series of five controversies on the nature and extent of Jesus’ authority. In a sense, authority is what this passage is all about, with Mark simply telling us that Jesus’ teaching was authoritative. Mark makes little effort to ever tell us what Jesus taught; he stresses more the manner and the effect of his teaching; it differed markedly from teachers of the time.
Mark shows the implications of Jesus’ authority and teaching in the exorcism, which is described in terms of the struggle between Jesus and Satan begun in the temptations (1:12-13). This and subsequent cures are examples of the continuing struggle Jesus carried on with the spirit of evil ― a struggle every Christian is meant to continue. Note that the unclean spirit seems able to see deeper and recognize the origin of Jesus’ power. As the Gospel will show, this knowledge was missed by almost everyone else. Jesus, however, silences the spirit. What is the value of a statement from one who is faithless? If the spirit had really believed that Jesus came from God, it would have become a believer.