Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sunday, February 1 ~ Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Mark 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.
"His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.


Here, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, and the people do not know who He is. He does not have power or a position of authority in this world. He was not born from a prestigious family or did not receive an advanced education. So, they are perplexed when they recognize the Truth in what He is preaching. How can this man, this simple man, speak so authentically?

Then, the Lord casts out a demon. He performs an exorcism, and the demon even recognizes Him as the Lord. Only then, when evil recognizes the Messiah, do the people begin to question and wonder if He might be the One for whom they have all been waiting. They still are not sure who He is and where He gets His authority.

For me, there are two connected lessons here. First of all, we must confront evil. We cannot hide from it. It is real. Satan slips into every region of the world, trying to distract us from God. Perhaps the evil is obvious like murder and abortion. Perhaps the evil is hidden like the internal struggle we all have against temptation.

All one has to do is look to the news to see the overt evil in this world. The mainstream media seems to be obsessed with graphic depictions of Satan's effect on people's lives. There is no denying that evil exists openly if we open our eyes to see it. We must pray for the defeat of this kind of evil, because until we defeat the evil in our own lives, we cannot be effective against the greater evils of our times.
Satan attacks us at a personal level in much more deceptive ways, so it is crucial to identify how he is trying to tarnish our souls. Those who generally avoid mortal sin are attacked with other forms of temptations. One of the ways Satan attacks me personally is to overwhelm me with thoughts about how much I am sinning. He floods my mind with all of the things I should be doing to grow in holiness and prevents me from clearly seeing how to begin to improve in even one area. I am so concerned about the things I am doing or not doing that prevent me from growing closer to God, that I neglect to choose even one fault to correct.

This leads me to the second lesson. We can conquer evil in our lives and in our world around us. It does not take someone with power, authority, prestige, or education to defeat evil. In our weakness, we can allow Christ to use us to stop Satan in his tracks. We do not have to be important or even intelligent. We simply have to believe that evil exists and ask the Lord to fortify us for the battle. His authority is the only power we need.

Satan wants us to turn our backs or at least a blind eye to the evil around us. He wants us to think we are too insignificant to make a difference, that nothing we can do will help fight the adultery and envy in our society. We are not. In Mark's Gospel story today, the demon must bow to Jesus. If we call upon the name of Jesus Christ, the evils we face will bow to Him, as well!

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!!!

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