June 23, 2018, 10:40 am
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The power the creative word gives

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.

***

While poring through the sheaf of students’ papers and journal entries one semester, I stopped and told myself that I should not just be a copyeditor, figuring whether the writer should use IS or ARE; IS or WAS. My task is to make the students love the power of language, the magic of words, the truth that bespeaks every well-reflected experience. So, I decided to be a mentor, not just an editor, a co-traveller in this realm that is always linguistic-for aren’t all our experiences linguistic? Teaching a Creative Writing subject, I realized, is a challenging act, a tough job.

More challenging, however, is what Jesus shows in our Gospel today. “All were amazed and asked one another, What is this?” The people are made to look beyond their usual sights and sounds. Mark says, “A new teaching with authority!” Jesus is a prophet, a navi (root word: nun, bayit, aleph) a word that means not only to foretell, but also call or called. The first Reading expounds the “called” as Moses assures the people that God is going to call (i.e. raise up) from among their own kin someone like Moses whom they shall listen to (Dt 18:15). A prophet is one who speaks God’s message to his people. Only God’s message, mind you; otherwise, the prophet would die (Dt 18:20).

So this proclamation must be born out of one’s fidelity to God. NO wonder in the Second Reading, Paul says that the bearer of the Good News has to focus all his energies on the fulfillment of God’s will in our midst “not to impose a restrain upon you, but for the sake of propriety and
adherence to the Lord without distraction” (1Cor 7:35).

Jesus’ way of showing us this prophetic commitment is by making people hear the message of God and also see the effect of God’s presence in their midst: an unclean spirit was exorcised. This is even made colorful when seen to have happened during the Sabbath when work is not allowed-and healing is considered work. Here is the Logos (Word name flesh), uttering the Rhyma (spoken word that propels action, like the Scriptures) that preserves and promotes life! in Jesus, there is no dichotomy between what he says and what he does because of his strong identification and faith in God. I remember what a lay theologian friend, Emmanuel de Guzman, says in these times of killings and disappearances. In Filipino he says that our teachings and actions must go together: “Sa huli, ang pagbitaw ng salita ay isang pagkilos na rin, ang pagtuturo at pangangaral ay pangangatawan din ng paninindigan. Hindi ko pinaghihiwalay ang salita at gawa. At kung teacher o formator ka, ang iyong patuturo o panagangaral ay salitang-pagkilos o pinangangatawang salita. Ang masaklap sa akin ay ang magturo sa paaralan o mangaral sa mga BEC o charismatic na walang katuturan sa nagaganap sa lipunan. Hindi ko magagawa yun dahil may pananagutan ako sa Diyos, sa Simbahan, at sa bayan. Kayak o nagsasalita at ang aking salita ay ang aking pagkilos…”

Jesus’ own prophetic stance leads him to death, not because he does not proclaim God’s message, but because the world can be full of opposing forces that promote the culture of death. That is why, inspired by Jesus, I still see hope in teaching these new writers to assay their experience, treasure their gifts, and chart the believer’s sense of mission. I believe in the power of words, and much more in the power of the Word who has taught us to live out what we have to say to others.

***

– Bro. Hansel B. Mapayo, SSP
– (Jan. 28, 2018)
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