Speaking for the voice of God is no small duty. Between the people and God, Moses was granted the authority from God to speak and lead on his behalf, lest the people wander astray. When God drew near Moses on Mount Sinai to communicate the Ten Commandments, it was an awesome sight to the Hebrew people gathered below. Through the Ten Commandments, God was revealing the nature of his very self and the boundaries of love to be maintained toward him and toward each other if they were truly to be God’s people.
Knowing that Moses would not be with them forever, and fearing another fiery visitation like Mt. Sinai, the people requested a successor to Moses. Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire, lest we die. Moses said that God would grant a successor with the speaking gift of interpretive authority to help them.
Throughout the Old Testament this gift of speaking for God was passed on through the true prophets who remained faithful to the Covenant. Moses warned the people that false prophets would emerge and that God would deal with them.
Centuries later, the Jewish people recognized that Christ spoke like a prophet, but also uniquely as one who possessed a divine authority uniquely emanating from within himself. He was very different. The encounter with the demon in today’s Gospel so jars the people that they proclaim, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” As the ministry of Jesus proceeds forward his absolute authority over all things will become very evident. He will make the blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak and raise the dead. He will give final authoritative interpretation to the Law and in all matters relating to God. He will even forgive sins.
After his resurrection, Jesus’ final authority in all things will be made clear and his identity as God the Son fully revealed. For the sake of the mission of salvation he will then share his teaching, leading and saving authority with the apostles when he says in Matthew 28:18, “Full authority both in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, and know that I am with you always, until the end of time.”
He promised to remain with the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, by sending upon them the Holy Spirit, thus guaranteeing his risen voice in the world until the end of time. During his ministry Christ said to the apostles, “the Holy Spirit will lead you to all Truth.” Through the pope, the successor to Peter, the bishops in communion with him and all the united faithful, the voice of God today speaks in the world. When we speak in union with the church it is with the voice of God we speak, from the least to the greatest. This is an incredible gift and obligation.
(Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville. His column appears every other week.)
Questions for Reflection:
1. How is God using me, in union with his church, to be his voice in the world?
2. Am I taking time to be formed in the faith so as to be the voice of God to others?
3. Where in my life does Jesus not yet have full authority?