The DYNAMITE of the Gospel!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God!” (Rm 1:16)

 The Gospel is the very power of God. In the original language, the word used here by St. Paul for “power” is dynamis, the similar word we use for dynamite. So, it’s not too far of a stretch to call the Gospel the dynamite of God!

This is precisely what we see in the account of Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of Mark (1:21-28). At the synagogue in Capernaum (Jesus’ hometown for public ministry), Jesus encounters the kingdom of darkness head on and teaches as one with authority and the ability even to cast out demons. What Mark doesn’t recount for us is the actual content of Jesus’ teaching, but instead he emphasizes the dramatic details of Jesus commanding the unclean spirit (or demon) to leave. Mark’s whole purpose here is to show the dynamite of Christ’s teaching. His teaching is not something inactive or ineffective. No – instead the words of Christ are explosive and reveal the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. 

Notice the demon does not refer to itself in the singular, but rather says: “Have you come to destroy us? You see, the demon realizes that the kingdom of God has come in the very words of Jesus, and his teaching is an all-out assault on the kingdom of darkness. Because Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of the Father who took on human flesh, his words have the same effect as the Word which created the entire universe – from the billions of stars throughout the galaxy to the incomprehensible mystery of the human person; that is, you and me. The demons tremble at this reality, because they recognize that even a single command from our Lord is capable of bringing their destruction. 

Is this our own experience with the Word of God and the teaching of Jesus? Do we find the Gospel to be the very dynamite of God which is capable of setting the entire world ablaze? Do we truly believe that the Word of God in itself has the power to do what it says?

Like those early Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum, perhaps we should open our eyes to see the radical newness of the words spoken by Jesus. They are words that have the very effect they speak. After all, this is precisely what we believe about the sacraments.

You see, those words alone, the words of Jesus, are the very power of God. They are capable of truly absolving sins and healing the sick. The same is true of the Word of God found in Sacred Scripture – they truly have the power to transform the world.

And so it is – the Word of God, Jesus, is dynamite in us. The author to the Letter to the Hebrews (12:29) even says that “our God is a consuming fire.”  His fame is meant to explode in our homes, cities, and nation. After all, that is precisely what those first Jews did after seeing Jesus in the synagogue. And we don’t simply see Jesus like those in the synagogue – in His Word and sacraments we truly become one with Him. 

Even in this time when many of us may not be able to physically receive Jesus in the Eucharist, His Word is still living and active – the same Word which makes the Eucharist present is the same Word living in the Bible. It has the real power to transform human hearts.

So, why not present our dry and desolate hearts as a wick to be set aflame with the power of the Gospel?

The first step is simply opening up your Bible.

The Hunger of Christ

When was the last time you felt real hunger? Those deep pangs which affect you not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. Hunger is one of our most visceral passions, and as Snickers is quick to point out, you are not you when you’re hungry. 

            This is precisely why Jesus approaches the crowd in the story of the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39). It says he has “compassion” on the crowd and that he is unwilling to let them leave hungry. A more apt translation of that word is something like “cut to the heart” or “moved from his inner depths.” You see, we all hunger deeply in this life. Some of us may hunger for food, but all of us hunger for the presence and love of God. In other words, “our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord,” to quote Augustine. 

            But if we look at the Gospel, we are not left alone in our deepest hunger. Even if we find ourselves without access to the sacraments because of sickness or being in a state of quarantine, we must remember that there is nothing, absolutely nothing which can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38). The same compassion, or gut-wrenching desire of Jesus to feed the 4,000 is the same desire he has to nourish us, even right now. 

            And we must believe this with unshakeable faith and the certainty of hope. The disciples, too, were without the necessary bread to meet the demands of the crowd of four thousand. Yet, Jesus, even in their weakness, came to them and asked them for whatever they had: 7 loaves and a few fish. And with these little gifts of faith and trust, Jesus took them, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. And not only were the 4,000 men (perhaps closer to fifteen or 20,000 people total) satisfied, there were seven baskets left over! 

            Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal about those seven baskets? Those seven baskets were symbolic of the 7 original Gentile nations. In the mindset of the day, there was enough bread left over to feed people to the ends of the earth. The compassion of Jesus was not only for those 4,000, it is for all of humanity. This is why Jesus Himself thirsts from the Cross – He desires the covenantal love of the Eucharist for each and everyone one of us (John 19:28) – and there is nothing, absolutely no distance or situation which can keep us apart from this love. 

            Whether you are a daily recipient of Holy Communion or happen to be homebound and shut-in, we can still take whatever little bit we have, and give it to the Lord – and we know with certainty, that he will take our small offerings, bless them, break them, and give them not only for our own salvation, but for that of the whole world. It is His hunger for us that transforms ordinary bread into His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Imagine what His Hunger could do for our heart if we freely handed it over to Him to be taken, blessed, broken, and given.