Mark 6:7-13, Thursday in the 4th Week of Ordinary Time
A few years ago, a good friend of mine — let’s call him Mang Manny — he told me a disturbing story. At his workplace, he witnessed a priest shouting at a co-employee, really skinning him alive. I don’t remember the reason why the priest went ballistic on the other guy. But I do remember Mang Manny telling me, “Father, alam ko namang makapangyarihan yung pari. Pero wala naman siyang karapatang manigaw.”
Makapangyarihan pero walang karapatan.”
In Scripture, the Greek word for power is dunamis, where the English “dynamo” comes from — “dynamic,” “dynamite.” Dunamis pertains to raw strength, incredible force, even violence. Dunamis is also the word used to refer to overwhelming miraculous power. Then, there’s another Greek word sometimes paired off with dunamis, and that is exousia, which translates to “authority.” Like dunamis, exousia also means the power to do something, the capacity to put something into effect. But there is a nuance. Exousia implies a power that is carried out by virtue of an office, of a call, of a responsibility. So, when today’s Gospel says that “Jesus summoned the Twelve, [sent] them out [by twos] and gave them authority over unclean spirits,” the exousia comes from Jesus, which, in turn, instills in his friends a dunamis to happen, specifically, the power to drive out demons and cure the sick.
When we understand this nuance, then, we can say, just because someone possesses a certain power doesn’t automatically mean one has the authority to use it. For instance, a taekwondo black-belter has the incredible dunamis to kick. But that doesn’t mean he has the exousia to just kick anyone he wishes, any time. An Ateneo Rifle Pistol team member certainly has dunamis in his very hands when he holds a firearm. But that doesn’t mean he has the exousia to fire that gun at someone for whatever reason he wishes to do so. So, this was the heart of what Many Manny was saying. “Alam ko namang makapangyarihan yung pari. Pero wala naman siyang karapatang manigaw.” The shouting priest was a powerful man, a man with a lofty position, a man of God, dunamis! But the exousia to shout at a worker, especially one who has, well, very little dunamis in life . . . ?
Among the Twelve were ordinary men — Andrew, Peter, James, and John were fishermen. There were also, well, suspicious men: Levi was a tax collector, Simon was a violent Zealot, Judas was a thief. The rest — Philip, Jude, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Thomas — we are not told what they were before Jesus called. So, probably, they were unremarkable men. Can you imagine, therefore, how these guys must’ve flipped when they noticed they could exorcise demons and cure the sick — they who were ordinary, shady, unremarkable? It must’ve felt awesome. For they couldn’t have done all this by themselves — ordinary, shady, and unremarkable that they knew they were. So, it was clear to them, then, as it is clear to us now, that while they possessed incredible powers, the authority to exercise them was never something they gave themselves. The exousia was bestowed.
And there lies the pitfall, sisters and brothers, when we realize we have incredible power over people and begin to believe . . . and even savor . . . that we are our own authority. The truth is that nobody possesses any dunamis that was not bestowed by an “other” — a higher, an almighty Exousia — nope, not even priests who have a lot of shout-power. Not even lay people, for that matter. To not fall into that pit, maybe a good thing to remember is that whatever power God has given us is always to be used towards healing and not wounding, towards exorcising demons instead of being the demon, towards freeing rather than binding, and towards giving ourselves away to others instead of presuming ownership of them. You know, sisters and brothers, we are all blessed with a lot of power because Jesus has called us to be his disciples. But the authority is not us. We march to someone else’s loving orders.
In that fateful scene Mang Manny was just so unfortunate to witness, the man who exercised his great power . . . he was, really, the weaker man, the man who needed some serious healing. Or, maybe, even an exorcism.
*image from the Internet