January 30/31, 2021: Homily: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Good evening/Good morning.
In today’s Gospel reading,
Jesus exorcises an unclean spirit from a man in the Capernaum synagogue.
The main theme of this reading addresses the authority Jesus demonstrates in driving out a demon.
Today I would like to reflect on unclean spirits, those things in the temples of our hearts that are not of God.
“There is still a bit of the devil in me.”
On the last day of 4th grade I thought it would be fun
to bring a package of cracker balls to school.
Cracker balls were a low grade firework, spherical in shape,
that would explode on contact when thrown against a hard surface such as concrete or a brick wall.
During our afternoon recess, I noticed our teacher, Mrs. Carver holding court with a group of 4th grade girls
on the wide sidewalk in front of our school.I snuck up behind Mrs. Carver
and threw one of those crackers balls on the sidewalk near her.
When it exploded the girls all jumped and screamed,
But, much to my chagrin, Mrs. Carver didn’t even flinch.
She calmly turned toward me with furrowed brow and gave me that you are in trouble look.
Mrs. Carver confiscated the rest of my cracker ball supply
and ordered me to go sit at my desk for the rest of the recess period.
The last thing Mrs. Carver said to me as I was boarding the school bus was;
“I am disappointed in you, you have a bit of the devil in you.”
I hoped she was referring to that ornery streak in me,and not insinuating that I was some kind of evil prodigy.
In a different context these words, a bit of the devil, describe things that invade the temples of our heart which are not of God.
To one degree or another, we all have a bit of the devil in us.
In the ancient world unclean spirits or demons were believed to wreak havoc where ever they went.
Today these demons are the cause of disunity and disfunction.
On an individual level one of Satan’s greatest accomplishment is to simply create enough noise in our lives so we cannot hear God talking to us.
On a societal level he is creating so much noise we can’t hear each other,much less God.
We are struggling with the demons of political ideologies which claim to have moral superiority and ultimate political wisdom over the opposition.
Black listing, re-education, deprogramming, and cancel culture are terms we normally associate with authoritarian governments; not the United States of America.
A lack of self reflection through the lens of the Gospel by not only our leaders,but also by our fellow countrymen has brought our federal government
to a level of disfunction not seen since the years preceding the Civil War.
In reality, no major political party embraces the Gospel of Jesus in its entirety.
When we condemn others by imputing motives because of actions or words; There is a bit of the devil is in us.
“What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come here to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!”
Jesus has the authority to exorcise demons from us and from our society.Archbishop Fulton Sheen once talked about the “expulsive power” of Christ.
When you place him in the center of your soul, he will expel all those things that don’t belong in that center and make them find their proper place.
One of the marks of the Saints with a big “S” is that they recognized their own sinfulness.
We are called to self-examination with the help of the Gospel and ask Jesus to exorcise those unclean spirits dwelling in our hearts.
In his book “The Wisdom Pattern” Richard Rohr tells us:“There’s a moral realism in healthy and grounded people. They’re not ideological,
on the left or the right. They do not read reality, first of all, with their moral compass, but with the eyes of compassion. They give others the benefit of the doubt”
As Catholic Christians it is our duty to be involved in public discourse.
It is incumbent on us to enrich that discourse with values drawn from the Gospels of Jesus Christ our Lord.
These values include:
The dignity of human life from conception until natural death,preferential treatment for the poor and vulnerable,
welcome the immigrant, and care for those in prison.
We are all Children of God, Jesus commands us to treat each other as such.