What are the sounds that drive us? Recently I was waiting at a red light and saw a driver in a car opposite me. He was bobbing his head up and down and side to side rhythmically. The movements seemed so extreme that I wondered how he could tell when the red light changed.
Granted, the body was simply responding in a musical way to the rhythms on his radio. Thank God there was a reason his body responded in this patterned way. If that weren't the case, I would think that the person might be in need of deliverance from unclean spirits.
That's the case in the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. When Jesus was teaching, "the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes."
You see, the scribes taught from the reflections of past masters. Jesus, on the other hand, is the Word of God. It's one thing for a learned man to reflect on the word of God, but another thing for a very holy man to reflect on the word of God. Finally, when the author of the word of God speaks, the actual Word of God, you see from where the authority flows.
Very gifted speakers can reduce an audience to silence rather quickly. Their words speak to the hungers of the audience. Those words bring light, understanding and insight. People are changed by what they hear. Their soul is being nourished, and they come alive.
When the speaker is the Word of God Himself, then power flows into the hearts of the listeners, speaking to the profound, uncharted and unknown hungers deep in the human psyche. The power of His words and the silence that those words produced caused the unclean spirit to erupt: "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!"
The unclean spirit had been harassing the man continually. However, its power was stopped when Jesus began to proclaim the word of God with authority. The power of Jesus produced such a silence within the man that the noise of the unclean spirit was rendered mute, forcing the unclean spirit to reveal itself.
As soon as Jesus says, "Quiet! Come out of him!" the evil spirit came out. Notice, the authority of God's word created a powerful silence in the synagogue, in the hearts of the listeners, and eventually in the man with the unclean spirit. The authority of God's word spoke to the inner noise and turmoil of all synagogue attendees and enabled them to hear the power of that word.
We live in an age of unprecedented images and sounds, and these often drive the beat of our daily lives. We become unconscious consumers of an unredeemed culture that fails to give us hope and peace, rest and tranquility, a time to choose between options.
Our lives don't have to be like that. We don't need to be driven by a culture that too often degrades us without our realizing it. In fact, we can even be freed from the noises that have captured so much of our consciousness.
The answer is simple: the same authority the attendees experienced in the synagogue. When we take in the word of God, it produces a silence within us. This silence is freeing and life changing. The Book of Hebrews tells us: "Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
The authority of silence, produced by God's word, brings relief to our inner spirit that is hungering for infinite quiet, infinite holiness, infinite love and infinite beauty. Our spirits were created for the goodness of God Himself, not for the entertainment of evil spirits, nor to be consumers of all the desires of the flesh. The authority of the word of God does all that for us. It gives us respite from disturbing and distractive drives that only leave us emptier and more dissipated.
We cannot be headed for heaven and be comfortable consuming the unredeemed culture in which we live.
Perhaps there is nothing that can bring you the peace and joy and happiness you seek as much as spending daily quiet time with passages of Scripture. You don't need to be a Scripture scholar to read the Bible. All you need is a hunger for holiness, peace and the quiet that God brings with His word.
If you don't know where in the Bible to start, my suggestion is to start either with the Acts of the Apostles or one Psalm a day. Before you begin, simply pray: "Holy Spirit, enlighten my understanding so that I can receive the power of your word to save me and to lead me closer to you."
However, you can't do this effectively in a beer hall or in the living room when the TV is blaring. Jesus said: "When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matthew 6:7). The Father in secret wants to tell you how much He loves and cherishes you. He is a jealous God and wants to spend time with you.