29 Jan Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 28th, 2018
Father Shawn Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
What is this? A new teaching – and with authority!!! The first thing that amazed the crowds is that Jesus taught with authority. In First Century Israel the scribes and Pharisee’s taught by appealing to their own teachers and authorities, Rabbi Abraham says this…Rabbi Gamaliel says that…” and finally to Moses and the Torah, which to all Jews of the day was unassailable.
Not Jesus. Jesus quotes no one except God’s Word. By doing so He is saying there is no greater authority than Himself. He is God’s Word…made Flesh.
But then Jesus demonstrates his authority: “Be silent and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit convulsed him with a loud cry and came out of him.” Jesus’ claim to God’s own authority is now ratified by showing power over the spiritual realm.
Jesus driving out unclean spirits is a continuous refrain throughout Mark’s gospel. (Mk 1:26.34,39; 3:11-12,30; 5:1-20; 6:7,13; 7:25-29; 9:25-27,38; 16:17). The Word of God, Jesus, is not afraid of the unclean spirits. The spirits and demons are beings of superior intelligence, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples and they are afraid of Jesus. Upon seeing Jesus they convulse the person and cry out loudly. The Word of God calmly commands them to be silent and come out of the person.
A moment later all is still. A former victim is now a free, restored to himself, and bystanders marvel: “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
In our modern minds we tend to not take the existence of the demons seriously. We only need to read the front page of most papers for evidence to see they clearly exist. The existence of the angelic and demonic realm is and has always been part of the ordinary teaching of the Church’s Magisterium, clearly reaffirmed by all the recent Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. We profess our faith that they exist every time we say the Nicene creed: We believe in God creator of all things, visible and invisible.
In his very first homily as pope, Pope Francis, quoted the great French theologian, Léon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” The Holy Father added: When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil. It’s very strong…and very clear.
So it is important to believe that such creatures exist. The first rule of warfare is to know your enemy. St. Paul tells us clearly in his letter to the Ephesians–Our battle is not against human forces but against…the evil spirits. (6:12)
Only God has complete power, complete authority over this world. Jesus does what only God can do…in commanding the demons, as later in the Gospel He commands the wind and the waves, He does what only God can do…He exerts authority over His creation. Clearly demonstrating he is God. Each of us is joined to Christ in our Baptism. Christ has redeemed us and conquered the Evil One. The enemy has no more authority or power over us. Unless, and this is a big unless…we voluntarily give it to him through sin, through our choices that are not of God. All the grace we need to resist the devil is given to us in our Baptism, in the reception of all the Sacraments, we receive the graces of the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Christ and in our prayer and spiritual life we also receive grace. Do we believe that enough to resist the attack of the devil? Are we with the Lord enough to resist the attack of the devil? Have we given our lives over to him so that we can resist the attack of the devil?
If not we must…we must cling to the Lord, listen to him…we too have his authority to rebuke the temptations we experience. We have to have a spiritual plan of resistance in Place – memorized Scripture immediately called to mind… other prayer as well.
And part of that plan MUST INCLUDE, when our resistance fails…the Lord knew this would happen and loves us so much that he gave us the Great Sacrament of Reconciliation…Of Confession…so when our resistance fails…we don’t let the devil get a hold of us with discouragement…we get ourselves to confession, that beautiful experience of humility and healing that the Lord gave us so that we can Begin Again!
One of the greatest victories of the devil in our modern culture is distraction. Be it twitter, facebook, YouTube, Read-it, television, sports, pornography…we procrastinate in the constant seeking of distraction, information and entertainment.
We live in a culture that is permanently distracted, that constantly is feeding at the surface, thus, blocked from going into the depths. Duc in Altum was one of the perennial cries of St. John Paul the Great. Duc in Altum…. I can still hear that sonorous Polish voice encouraging all of us…Go into the deep. Go into the deep. We are a culture that hungers to know more and more, to be entertained more and more, to be distracted more and more…we need to spend more time exposing ourselves to deep truths about God and pondering them…developing a relationship with him…How?
One of my favourite quotes from Scripture is Psalm 51: v. 6 King David, has been found out regarding his adulterous act with Bethsheba and has had her husband, Uriah, killed in battle to cover up the fact that she is pregnant with his child. In sorrow he turns to God to have mercy and cleanse him and then says to God:
The Grail translation says:
6 You desire truth in my inmost being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Often, we need to go to that in most being, in our secret heart. There, in stillness, is truth. There in stillness we perceive a knowing of the divine that is beyond words.
Listen to what Romano Guardini, one of the great theologians of the early 20th century says about truth in our inmost being,…about stillness.
“The inmost spirit lives by truth, by its recognition of what is and what has value. Man expresses this truth in words…. But truth can be recognized only from silence. The constant talker will never, or at least rarely, grasp truth…genuine truth only comes into being when the essence of an object, the significance of a relation, and what is valid and eternal in this world reveal themselves. This requires the spaciousness, freedom, and pure receptiveness of that inner “clean-swept room” which silence alone can create.” (P. 8 of Meditations Before Mass.)
To know God we need stillness. We need reflective silence. Meditating upon the truths of our Faith in silence… letting them sink into our very being…feeding our silence with the reading of Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, spiritual reading or with the Rosary, or with other prayers…and then putting the reading aside and actually sitting with what you have read and let the truth of it sink in.
St. Teresa of Avila, the greatest of mystics, said in prayer, “we need to take up our book and read, and then when we feel our heart rising to God we put our book aside and dwell on what we have read.” This is prayer. Our prayer time should not be predominantly our chatter. It should be our stillness.
Then we carry that stillness into our daily lives. We carry that knowing of the divine that is beyond words in to our daily lives. Then when distraction comes along, when procrastination or the temptation to impatience, gossip, anger, lust, the desire to be judgmental, resistance to forgive,…when these come along we have the rock solid foundation of confidence from our time spent in stillness…to resist. Resistance of all this is the fruit of our stillness, our prayer.
Resistance comes from the certainty at the core of our being that we have all the grace we need to resist…to overcome the assaults of the devil. The strength of that certainty comes from our time spent in stillness.
Resistance to temptation comes in immediately when we immediately call to mind Scripture, catechetical truths, memorised prayers,…until the temptation leaves. Continual resistance over and over is how we grow in the spiritual life.
The unclean spirit in the gospel was afraid of Jesus and fled at his command. When we are confident of having clothed ourselves in the armour of Christ in the Sacraments and in prayer we have the same authority to command the demons to come out. We can resist their temptations. Faithful followers of Jesus Christ have the authority to do so. We have to believe that…and then use that.
Another favourite Scripture: St. James in his letter puts it about as simply and as clearly as one can. In chapter 4:7 he says: “Resist the devil and he will take flight.” V. 8 “Draw close to God. And he will draw close to you.”
There is a direct correlation here that depends on our choice. We resist by praying. The deeper our prayer life, the greater our plan of resistance, and the stronger its implementation.
Stillness is the essential environment to grow in such certainty and strength.