Every year there is at least one event that happens that defines the year. It could be a star the had rocked the world with a number one single, a video on youtube that shaped peoples point of view or a large and traumatizing event that affected a country and possibly the whole world. Either way, each year is defined by a year-turning moment that reshaped how people looked at the world.
Todays Gospel brings us into the start of the cultural renewal that Jesus brought. Mark places Jesus' first miracle as an exorcism that takes place immediately after calling his first disciples. Exorcisms in Marks Gospel are very important events for the development of Jesus and defining him. The one given today, begins with Jesus' teaching in the synagogue. The people who listened to him teach were astonished at the way he taught, it is different than the teachings of the scribes. Jesus' authority comes through, as he commands the unclean spirit to leave the man. After the exorcism the people again were astonished by the miracle that just took place.
Jesus was counter cultural. He lived a life, and instituted one, that went against the grain. One that stood out, that worked, that was needed. In his first 24 hours of public ministry Jesus finds himself teaching. We aren't told what he was teaching, all we know is that whatever he taught was 1) different than the scribes and 2) attracted the hearts of the people listening. Jesus comes to build the kingdom of God on earth. The earth lived in sin. The earth was full of sin, God sent his son to fulfil his covenant with the people, to give hope to the people, and to establish his kingdom.
This kingdom, is counter cultural. It reformed how people saw each other, took care of each other, and helped each other. It changed the life of the people. It gave people hope-hope that God is with them, looking after them, and loves them. Jesus showed how life should be; a life full of love, compassion, care, and outreach. It should be a peaceful, respectful, loving life. Not a life full of jealousy, hatred, war and rejection.
In the time of Jesus, and very much today, this life is counter cultural. It goes against the grain, against the currents of the metaphorical ocean that is the world. Following Christ, the church, isn't easy. This world, especially is the west, is very secularized (subtraction of God and religion. However, as followers of Jesus we are challenged to be witnesses to the faith. Our faith must continue outside the walls of the church; it must be our life. We live out our faith by doing what Jesus asked; to be caring and compassionate to the less fortunate, to help the poor and vulnerable, to help anyone that needs help, to meet people where they are at and help them recover.
In the years that Jesus lived were defiantly 'defined' by him. He shaped the world around him. He had his followers and had his opponents. He instituted a counter cultural faith, society, life. As Catholics and Christians we are challenged to follow Christ in our life. This is extremely hard. The challenges we have because of the secularized world we live in can be very hard, but through consistent prayer and receiving of the sacraments we can become strong and help further the building of the Kingdom of God on earth!