January 31, 2021 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings and liturgy (https://adoseofgodtoday.com/sunday-liturgy/)
What is your imagination of demon? If we would type the word “demon” on google and see the images of demons, you would see pictures of ugly creatures, with horns, and tails and ugly wings. Those are images of monsters. Some images actually also show the demons in Japanese animès. Moreover, even with our consciousness today, we also imagine a demon portrayed in those images with ugly faces.
Nevertheless, how correct really are we in imagining and realizing those demons, and the demons around us and within us? Yes, demons do not only exist outside of us but demons also can be in us.
Healing and freedom from the slavery of demons had been part of the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. That is why, bringing freedom to those who were possessed and oppressed by demons or evil spirits was a sign of God’s Kingdom made present on earth. With this reality, it would be good for us now to look closely at the Gospel story this Sunday and let us see how Jesus unfolds his invitation for us to be free and real.
The Gospel of Mark which is believed to be the first Gospel ever written in the New Testament presents to us the first miracle of Jesus. This is revealed to us through the encounter of Jesus with a demon and his power over the demon. And because this passage is filled with images, it is important to explore the verses one by one.
First, it has been established that Jesus taught in the Synagogue with “authority” unlike the scribes who seemed to be too academic and distant in their teaching. It means that the people could really understand what Jesus taught and they were able to see the realities in their life through the scriptures because of Jesus’ way of teaching.
Our first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy reminds of this authority in Jesus. Remember, in that passage, Moses proclaimed to the people how the Lord God shall raise up a prophet to whom the people shall listen. Jesus is that prophet promised by the Lord God. Through the mouth of Jesus, God speaks. This means that the very words of Jesus, indeed, do not only carry authority but also God’s power.
Second, inside the synagogue or a “Jewish House of Prayer” there was a man with an “unclean spirit.” In the New Testament, the description “unclean spirit” is basically understood in the context of demonic possession, of a spirit that is resistant to the holy presence of God.
But wait, if this unclean spirit was in a house of prayer, does it mean that it can enter a holy place? Yes, this should not surprise us because a demon can pretend and appear righteous. Well, this tells us now that unclean spirits or demons can be everywhere and can even be with a person who seems to be so religious, good and pious.
This was the case of that possessed man inside the synagogue. Remember, the unclean spirit was there among the people listening to the words of Jesus. Yet, it cannot stand for long at the holy presence of Jesus. This was the reason why, the man cried out. This shows us of the attitude of a demon towards the presence of the Lord. The demon became so insecure and frightened over the presence of Jesus.
Third, because of the insecurity of the demon, it tried to take control Jesus by naming the Lord. The demon said, “you are the Holy One of God.” Remember again, in biblical times once you are able to give name to something, you gain control and power over that thing. This was what the demon did to Jesus. However, Jesus is much powerful than the unclean spirit.
As a result, the demon was commanded by Jesus to keep quiet and come out from the man. And it did, the man was freed and was healed because that demon was dominated by a healing and forgiving presence of Jesus. Yes, any demon that will have an encounter with God will certainly be defeated because demons are always insecure, anxious and fearful before the holy presence of God.
This helps us now to realize that demons, these unclean spirits are real. Though, we might also have some misconceptions about demons. For us to be able to recognize the demons or the unclean spirit, we need a proper understanding about them.
Demons are not as exactly as we see in many literatures, movies and pictures on the internet. Demons appear to be ordinary and hide in those subtle forms in our society and even in our individual lives. This was the case of the man in the Gospel. That man with unclean spirit only came out later when he cannot endure anymore the presence of Jesus. Demons live with us and could even be in each of us, hiding in us and in our hearts.
Today’s Gospel tells a reality in our human life that we too might be possessed even without our own knowledge. The people in the synagogue may not be fully aware of that unclean spirit because they were all in a House of Prayer. There is a need for us to recognize, be aware and to “name” our demon/s big or small. Demons lead us to believe that they do not exist so that we will not be able to name them, thus, will not be able to take control over them and cast them out.
I want to invite you now to bring ourselves into a deeper reflection, first with our own lives, and then in our society.
- First. The unclean spirit can be that “feeling of insecurity” that makes a person always jealous and suspicious to his/her partner to the point of controlling and manipulating the other. This could also be that insecurity that leads a person accumulate wealth at the expense of others through corruption and deceit in our work, business or profession.
- Second. A demon can also be that attitude of anxiety and fear that paralyzes us to take risks in investing in our relationships because of our traumatic experiences. Or our complacency in life that makes us indifferent to those who are suffering and in need.
- Third. An unclean spirit can also be our own arrogance believing that we are righteous enough before God and so we do not need the grace of forgiveness. Or of that arrogance believing that our opinions and viewpoints in life are perfect to the point that we refuse to listen to what God and others are saying to us.
- Fourth. A demon can be our own addictions and destructive habits that we have developed in many years. This could also be those oppressive and abusive mentality and culture that promotes death, indifference and hatred in our society.
- Fifth. An unclean spirit can also be that feeling of guilt, yes, those guilt feelings that we have that make us believe that our sins are too great to be forgiven by God. Such guilt could trap us into a habit of self-pity, self-disgust, and shame. The demon will make us incapable of either forgiving ourselves, forgiving others and in fully accepting God’s gift of forgiveness and healing to each of us.
But remember, we cannot defeat demons or those unclean spirits by ourselves alone. Seek the help of friends who can help us or professionals who can guide us as we face our personal demons. Join groups, communities and the Church too in confronting the evils and demons present in our society. However, let us not forget God’s tremendous power in giving us complete healing and reconciliation, freedom and life. In the presence of Jesus, demons will be frightened. So, let us also listen to Jesus’ teachings and build personal relationship with him through the Church. Hinaut pa.