Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, "Let us alone! 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." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, "What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!" And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
A popular theme of both Jesus and St. Paul is the need for keeping alert, in order to stay close to God and live our life according to God's will. Ironically, in today's Gospel story the person most alert to Jesus' presence is the unclean spirit which, as it was being driven out of a possessed man, makes a frenzied confession, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God!"
In John Bunyan's classic Pilgrim's Progress, the character named Christian sings this verse:
"When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together;
Yea, let them learn of them, in what wise
They may keep open slumbering eyes.
Saints' fellowship, if it be managed well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of hell."
If we isolate ourselves and walk alone we are likely to grow drowsy. Interact with fellow Christians and you will be kept wakeful and encouraged to make progress on the road to to God. And in our fellowship of prayer with others, let the Lord Jesus be in the centre.
Authority figures in all walks of life come under suspicion nowadays. The misuse of authority in the past can make all forms of authority suspect. Yet, authority, properly used, can be a tremendous force for good. In today's gospel we find the kind of authority that is a force for good. People are delighted with Jesus because they recognised true authority in him. "His teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority." His teaching, his word, was experienced as authoritative because it brought life to others; his word delivered a man from his demons. Here was an authority that was life-giving, life-renewing, and creative of others. Jesus' teaching, his word, was authoritative in this life-giving sense because it was rooted in his relationship with God. It was shaped by the Spirit of God that Paul refers to in the first reading. Paul reminds us in that reading that we have all received the Spirit that comes from God. He goes further and says that we have the mind of Christ. If the mind of Christ, if the Spirit of God, shapes our words, they too will be authoritative in the same life-giving way that Jesus' words were. They will bring healing where there is brokenness, peace where there is disturbance.