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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018

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4th Sunday of Ordinary Time…… “How do we Teach with Authority?”      

“What do you want of us Jesus of Nazareth?”  Someone once said that this is the key question of Gospel.  It is one thing to say we follow Jesus. It is another to do something about it.

            Jesus had a lot of encounters with evil spirits as he begins his ministry in the Gospel of Mark.  When Jesus goes into Capernaum, he has just come out of the desert where the devil has tempted him.  What does he tempt Jesus with?  He offers Jesus power if he will serve evil.  Satan suggests that he can give Jesus popularity if he but plays the political game.  Finally, he offers Jesus security if he will only cooperate.  Jesus, does not give in.  He resists the temptations that are thrown at him. 

            But his struggle with Satan is not at an end.  He goes to Capernaum.  He walks into the synagogue to preach.  His preaching is what triggers the evil spirit to show himself again.  The people in the synagogue must have been surprised that there was a man with an unclean spirit in their midst.  The last place that we would expect an evil spirit to be is in church. But we who are church goers know, that unclean spirits hang out around churches disrupting congregations.

            What seems to cause these spirits to expose themselves is how Jesus taught.  He not only taught, but he taught with authority.  Good sincere teaching is a threat to the agenda of evil.  We have so many teachers who do not practice what they preach. When someone is consistent in word and deed it is a powerful force for good.  Jesus was that sort of person.  Because of that, he was a threat to the designs of the devil.  How many of us have met teachers who taught with true authority?  If we have no someone like that we see what affect they can have.

            During this past week I lost a mentor who taught with authority.  His name was Archbishop Daniel Buechlein (A Benedictine Monk). He died at 79.  I met Daniel Buechlein when I first went to seminary at St. Meinrad College in St. Meinrad Indiana. At that time, Fr. Buechlein was only 37.  He was in an unusual position.  He was very young to be president rector of a Major Seminary. But he was no ordinary man.  When he took the position the Theology School was in decline.  Some questioned its future.  Enrollment was low.  Money was scarce.  Who would want to go to school in the middle of Southern Indiana?  Something had to be done.  The Archabbot called Fr. Daniel in to his office and asked him what he would do to save the school.  Fr. Daniel thought he would offer opinions which might be implemented.  At the end of the conversation the Archabbot said, “Good ideas, you are now president rector.”  The earnest young priest began his work.  He recruited top flight faculty from all over the country, young theologians who wanted to have an impact on the church.  Why did they come?  Because they saw in the rector a bright, sincere, principled man.  By the end of Fr. Daniel’s tenure, the seminary was full.  New buildings were built. And the seminary had a large endowment.

            Soon Fr. Daniel became Bishop Daniel. At only 50 he was made Bishop of Memphis.  He started to work.  He emphasized Catholic Education.  He also tried to help those who were in poverty.  He had many successes.

            In five years Bishop Daniel became Archbishop Daniel.  He was moved to Indianapolis.  When he got to that city the Catholic School system was in decline.  People told him that this was an irreversible trend.  Archbishop Daniel believe it should be reversed.  He opened two schools in the most impoverished parts of the city. He recruited talented leaders to head the various ministries of the diocese including Catholic Education. He took other steps.  He got business leaders on board.  The enrollment of Catholic Schools in Indianapolis in the first decade of this century grew 25%.  Why?  One reason was because Archbishop Daniel taught with authority. 

            Another passion of his was seminary education.  He decided a Catholic college seminary attached to Marian University in Indianapolis would be a good idea.  Seminaries were closing all over the country. He was reminded of that by the skeptical.  He opened the seminary.  The school is at capacity today.

            This week Archbishop Daniel will be buried in the cemetery next to the other monks. A simple sandstone marker like all the rest will mark his grave.  A final reminder of where true power comes from, God’s grace.

            What is the evil the church fights?  We could say that it is sex, drugs, cultural decline, but what threatens the church most is apathy.  What threatens the church is negativity? What the devil likes is to create among the people of God is doubt.  What happens if we do ask the question in earnestness, “What do you want of me Jesus of Nazareth?”  What if we don’t give in to the prophets of doom and gloom? 

            During this Catholic Schools week, we should remember a good teacher who taught with authority, Archbishop Buechlein. His teaching produced good fruit.  Our schools face many challenges. If they offer good authoritative teaching, then perhaps great things can happen.