[4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Feb 1, 2015 / Deut 18:15-20 / Ps 95:1-2, 6-7b, 7c-9 / 1 Cor 7:32-35 / Mark 1:21-28]
In today’s gospel we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue. His teaching “made a deep impression” on the listeners. Why? “Because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.” Jesus taught with authority and conviction. When Jesus spoke that day in the synagogue he was challenged by an unclean spirit: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” But Jesus said sharply “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Jesus has authority to drive out unclean spirits, to silence them and to heal those afflicted. Jesus continues to teach us today and continues to drive out many unclean spirits. How are we to understand this, the driving out of unclean spirits? It depends on how we see the concept of unclean spirits.
Sometimes we jump to images of devils and demons, or remember a scene from a movie like Poltergeist! But what unclean spirits is he wishing to drive out?
Well for sure an unclean spirit is not something desirable. Presumably its presence would lead to deleterious effects for the person infected or affected. Also it seems that it is powerful. The man possessed could not drive it out alone. However Jesus is stronger than the unclean spirit. His word dislodges the bad spirit. His truth is more powerful than lies and his light overcomes the darkness.
So what are some examples of unclean spirits for us today? Let us not think that they do not exist today in our modern world. Certainly a fear can be an unclean spirit. It is good when we experience an irrational fear that makes us pray to Jesus and put ourselves in his presence. To listen to his reassuring words that he is with us always. Often this alone brings peace and drives out unclean spirits.
Sometimes an unclean spirit can be the holding of a grudge. It is unclean as it poisons our heart as does an indecent or sexual thought which can wreak havoc, attacking our eye and giving us an impure gaze.
In a similar way when we don’t forgive someone it can be like an unclean spirit in us. Where outright sin is involved, the unclean spirit will not budge but thanks be to God we can listen to Jesus telling us “Be quiet! Come out of him!” in the sacrament of reconciliation.
The unclean spirit is quite resistant to being removed. He challenges Jesus – “What do you want of us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” The unclean spirit wants nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth. As if Jesus is only there to disturb and cause trouble. The unclean spirit feels threatened and wants to put a “Do not disturb” sign.
We can have similar attitudes. In us, a similar voice can make us feel afraid of our Lord. What if I follow him more closely? Maybe he will take something away from me? But remember what he said in John 10:10 “I am not a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come to give you life, life in all its fullness.” The man wanted that but the unclean spirit was working hard. The unclean spirit was quite stubborn but the words of Christ are stronger.
It is interesting because the only ones who declare the true identity of Jesus in the gospel of Mark are the unclean spirits! You know I love this gospel episode very much not because it reminds me of the bad spirit but because it tells me of the power of the good spirit, the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. It shows clearly that Jesus has power over the bad and unclean spirits. He is more powerful than them.
His word can drive out all the unclean spirits in me. The voices of negativity, inferiority, judgment or relentless criticism. A strong demon today that constantly attacks us is the demon of fear. How much we need to listen to the words of Jesus “Be quiet! Come out of him!”—“Tumahimik ka! Lumabas ka sa kanya!”
And Jesus wins the battle. Good triumphs over evil. It reminds me of a show called the Voice. Have you seen it? Sometimes there is a battle between two contestants to decide the winner. The battle in Voice Capernaum is Jesus vs the Unclean spirit. What song did they choose? The bad spirit chose “I’m bad, I’m bad, you know it, I’m bad” and Jesus sang “Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race.”
Jesus wins the contest. He is so very brave and courageous in fighting the bad spirit! Thank you, Jesus, for standing up for to him. Thanks, Jesus, and may we always rely on you and never lose courage in fighting the bad spirits. Amen.