Thứ Bảy, 31 tháng 1, 2015

FEBRUARY 01, 2015 : FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME year B

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 71

Reading 1DT 18:15-20
Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.’”
Responsorial PsalmPS 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Reading 21 COR 7:32-35
Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband. 
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

AlleluiaMT 4:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light;
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death,
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 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.

Scripture Study

February 1, 2015 Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time. In the first reading we hear Moses tell Israel that God will raise up from among them a prophet like him who will mediate the word of God to them. They are told to listen to him. How well am I listening to the word of God as it comes to me? In the second reading Paul continues to remind the Corinthians and us that all of the world which we take to be so real will pass away very soon. How permanent are the things upon which my eyes are focused? The gospel presents Jesus in the midst of His teaching ministry. The Kingdom of God, present in Jesus and in His teaching, causes panic in a demon who is then cast out. How detectable, by others, is the Kingdom of God in me and in my life?

First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
15 “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen. 16 This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. 19 If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. 20 But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.’
NOTES on First Reading:
* 18:15-22 This section deals with the prophetic office. Prophecy was Israel’s form of mediation. Here the prophet is described as being a native or true Israelite who is called by God and continues the prophetic office of Moses (Exod 33:11; Num 12:1-8; Hos 12:13).
* 18:15 Because of the context which is opposition to the pagan soothsayers, it seems that Moses is referring generally to all the true prophets who would succeed him. This passage was understood in a special Messianic sense both by the Jews (Mal 4:5-6; John 1:21; 6:14; 7:40) and by the Apostles (Acts 3:22; 7:37). Since Christ is the Great Prophet in whom the prophetic office finds its fulfillment and completion, the Church has always applied it to Christ.
* 18:16 The reference is to the meeting with God on Horeb which is found is found in 9:7-14. In Exodus the story is told as occurring ion Mt Sinai (Exod beginning with Chapter 19). Prophecy has its origin in the people’s request for mediation between God and themselves.
* 18:18 This is reminiscent of the call of Moses (Exod 4:12, 15-16) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:9). In Israel’s history there is a close connection between prophecy and the law (2 Kings 17:13:15). See also Isa 50:4; 51:16; John 17:18; John 4:25; 8:28; 12:49, 50; and 15:15.
* 18:20 The death penalty was threatened against the non-Yahwistic prophet and the one not commissioned by Yahweh who presumes to speak for Him (Jer 23:9-32; 28:16-17). For use of ” in the name” see 13:1,2; 1Ki 18:19, 27, 40; Jer 2:8; 28:15-17; Zec 13:3; Re 19:20.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
32 I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. 33 But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 7:32-35 The basic premise here is that the coming of Christ will occur very soon. It would be silly to place more commitments on one’s self when everything will shortly come to an end.
* 7:32 Anxious concern is a characteristic of unredeemed existence. Paul sees the redeemed believer as living in supreme calm and peace.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:21-28
21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 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!” 25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27 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.” 28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 1:21-28 The healing-exorcism story follows the following pattern: Jesus encounters the possessed man exorcism departure of the demon impression made on the bystanders.
* 1:21 Capernaum was a city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was the center of Jesus activities in Galilee. Synagogue services featured prayers, scripture readings (usually from the Torah or Law and from the prophets), and teaching. Anyone of sufficient learning could be asked to teach. There was no need for formal rabbinic ordination in Jesus’ time. These services were largely the invention of the pharisees who, at first, were probably hoping that Jesus would join their movement since he seemed to support their services.
* 1:22 Scribes usually quoted from the great Rabbis and generally presented the opinions of others. Jesus taught with the force of personal conviction and the authority of God. The authority of Jesus is one of the dominant themes of Mark’s Gospel.
* 1:23-27 Sickness represents not the Rule of God but of Satan, the enemy of God. Jesus sets out to make the Rule of God present by healing, and casting out devils who keep people bound in sickness and insanity. He overcomes Satan and makes the future Kingdom of God begin to be present on earth. Jesus also made the Kingdom of God present by His teaching. He taught by His actions as well as by His words. His actions gave power to His words. A simple touch could bring healing.
* 1:23 A parallel is found in Luke 4:33-37. The man is described as possessed by an evil force. This was not simply a matter of ritual impurity. The idea presented is that the man’s behavior was due to an outside force under the direction of Satan. Jesus’ exorcisms were seen as moments of victory in the struggle with Satan.
* 1:24 Literally what the unclean spirit says is: ” What to us and to you, Jesus Nazarene? ” This is not so much a question as it is a protest against the disturbing, threatening presence and teaching of Jesus, the Holy One of God. Jesus’ mere presence is an announcement of the end of Satan’s power and therefore causes fear on the part of the demon.
* 1:25 What Jesus says is not nearly as polite as the NAB’s “Quiet,” or the KJV’s “Hold thy peace.” The word He uses is “phimoo” from the word for muzzle and is in the second person passive imperative or “Be muzzled.” Jesus refuses to accept testimony from demons and unclean spirits even when they are telling the truth because even the truth in their mouths is a means of deceit.
* 1:27 The authority of Jesus is an important theme of Mark’s Gospel.
Courtesy of: http://www.st-raymond-dublin.org/ - St. Raymond Catholic Church

Meditation: Jesus taught with authority
Do you believe that God’s word has power to set you free and to transform your life? When Jesus taught he spoke with authority. He spoke the word of God as no one had spoken it before. When the Rabbis taught they supported their statements with quotes from other authorities. The prophets spoke with delegated authority - "Thus says the Lord." When Jesus spoke he needed no authorities to back his statements. He was authority incarnate - the Word of God made flesh. When he spoke, God spoke. When he commanded even the demons obeyed.
Faith works through love and abounds in hope
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) remarked that "faith is mighty, but without love it profits nothing. The devils confessed Christ, but lacking charity it availed nothing. They said, 'What have we to do with you' (Mark 1:24)? They confessed a sort of faith, but without love. Hence they were devils." 
Faith is powerful, but without love it profits nothing (1 Corinthians 13). Scripture tells us that true faith works through love (Galatians 5:6) and abounds in hope (Romans 15:13). Our faith is made perfect in love because love orients us to the supreme good which is God himself as well as the good of our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26,27). 
Hope anchors our faith in the promises of God and purifies our desires for the things which will last for eternity. That is why the word of Christ has power to set us free from all that would keep us bound in sin, deception, and despair. Bede the venerable abbot of an English monastery (672-735) contrasted the power and authority of Jesus' word with the word of the devil:  "The devil, because he had deceived Eve with his tongue, is punished by the tongue, that he might not speak" [Homilies on the Gospels 1.8].
Faith must be nourished with the Word of God
Faith is both a free gift of God and the free assent of our will to the whole truth that God has revealed. To live, grow, and persevere in the faith to the end, we must nourish it with the word of God. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds that we may grow in his truth and in the knowledge of his great love for each of us. If we approach God’s word submissively, with an eagerness to do everything the Lord desires, we are in a much better position to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. Are you eager to be taught by the Lord and to conform your life according to his word?
"Lord Jesus, your word is power and life. May I never doubt your saving love and mercy, and the power of your word to bring healing and deliverance to those in need."

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, FEBRUARY 1, MARK 1:21-28
(Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
KEY VERSE: "What is this? A new teaching with authority." (v 27).
TO KNOW: The scholars of the Law held positions of authority because of their great learning, but Jesus taught on his own authority (Greek exousia, power that "came out of his very being"). The people were enthralled by the power of Jesus' words. They marveled that he taught as the ancient prophets did, unlike the teachers with whom they were acquainted. While teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus healed a man possessed by an "unclean spirit" (v 23). Unlike the religious leaders, the demons knew that divine power was at work in Jesus, and they attempted to overpower him by invoking his name. Jesus was more powerful than the demons, and he rebuked them and commanded them to be silent. The crowds were astonished, and at the same time, they were perplexed as they did not yet understand Jesus' true identity. Still, Jesus' fame continued to spread throughout the region of Galilee.
TO LOVE: Lord Jesus, heal me of anything that is out of order in my life.
TO SERVE: Do I help others understand Jesus' power over evil in their lives?

Sunday 1 February 2015

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. G. 
Deuteronomy 18:15-20. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts—Ps 94(95):1-2, 6-9 1. Corinthians 7:32-35. Mark 1:21-28.
The evil spirits recognise Jesus for who he truly is.
They recognise his ability to loosen the grip they have on the possessed man and drive them out of him.
Whether we believe in evil spirits or not, we can all recognise things in our lives and even within us that are obstacles to true freedom. We live in an addictive society which imprisons people in their compulsions and appetites. The very things that promise to be life-giving become sources of emptiness and death.
Often when confronted with the possibility of liberation from our disordered affections we encounter resistance from within. The possibility of freedom can be frightening as it means the challenge of letting go of crutches and excuses for not living life fully. Nevertheless, like the demoniac, we can recognise Jesus’ desire and power to free us from whatever binds us.

MINUTE MEDITATIONS 
Our Vocation
Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.
— from Simply Merton 

February 1
St. Ansgar
(801-865)
The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism.
He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return.
Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr.
Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.


Stories:


One of his followers was bragging about all the miracles the saint had wrought. Ansgar rebuked him by saying, "If I were worthy of such a favor from my God, I would ask that he grant me this one miracle: that by his grace he would make of me a good man."

Comment:

History records what people do, rather than what they are. Yet the courage and perseverance of men and women like Ansgar can only come from a solid base of union with the original courageous and persevering Missionary. Ansgar’s life is another reminder that God writes straight with crooked lines. Christ takes care of the effects of the apostolate in his own way; he is first concerned about the purity of the apostles themselves.
Patron Saint of:

Denmark


LECTIO DIVINA: 4TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (B)
Lectio: 
 Sunday, February 1, 2015
Jesus teaches and heals people
The first impression of the Good News of Jesus on the people
Mark 1:21-28
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. Reading
a) A key to the reading:
The Gospel text of this fourth Sunday of ordinary time speaks of the amazement of the people who see Jesus passing on his teaching (Mt 1:21-22), then presents the first miracle of the casting out a devil (Mt 1:23-26) and finally speaks again of the amazement of the people who hear the teaching of Jesus of his power to cast out devils (Mk 1:27-28).
In the 70’s, the time Mark is writing, the Community of Italy needed some guidance as to how to proclaim the Good News of God to people who lived under the oppression of the fear of evil spirits because of the arbitrary imposition of religious laws by the Roman Empire. In describing Jesus’ activity, Mark showed how the communities were to proclaim the Good News. The Evangelists catechised by telling the facts and events of Jesus’ life.
The text we are to meditate shows the impression of the Good News of Jesus on the people of his time. As we read, let us try to pay attention to the following: Which activities of Jesus most gave rise to the amazement of the people?
b) A division of the text to help with the reading:
Mark 1:21-22: The people in amazement at the teaching of Jesus begin to grow a critical awareness
Mark 1:23-24: The reaction of a man possessed by the devil in the presence of Jesus in the Synagogue
Mark 1:25-26: Jesus conquers and drives the devil away
Mark 1:27-28: Again, the impression of the Good News of Jesus on the people
c) Text:
21 They went as far as Capernaum, and at once on the Sabbath he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority. 23 And at once in their synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit, and he shouted, 24 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.' 25 But Jesus rebuked it saying, 'Be quiet! Come out of him!' 26 And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. 27 The people were so astonished that they started asking one another what it all meant, saying, 'Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.' 28 And his reputation at once spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part of the text did you like best?
b) What caused most amazement on the part of the people in Jesus’ time?
c) What drove the people to see the difference between Jesus and the doctors of the time?
d) Devils have no power over Jesus. What impression does this make on the people?
e) Does the reality of our community produce amazement among people? How?
5. For those who wish to go deeper into the theme
a) The context of the times and of today:
This Sunday we meditate on the description in Mark’s Gospel of the first miracle of Jesus. Not all the Evangelists tell the facts of Jesus’ life in the same way. Each of them took into account the communities for whom he was writing, each stressed some points and aspects of the life, activities and teachings of Jesus that could help their readers more. Matthew’s readers lived in the north of Palestine and in Syria; Luke’s lived in Greece; John’s in Asia Minor and Mark’s probably in Italy. A concrete example of this diversity is the way each one of the four represents Jesus’ first miracle. In John’s Gospel the first miracle is that at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus transforms the water into wine (Jn 2:1-11). For Luke, the first miracle is the tranquillity with which Jesus frees himself from the threat of death on the part of the people of Nazareth (Lk 4:29-30). For Matthew, it is the healing of a large number of sick and possessed (Mt 4:23) or, more specifically, the healing of a leper (Mt 8:1-4). For Mark, the first miracle is the casting out of a devil (Mk 1:23-26). Thus, each Evangelist, in his own way of telling the facts, stresses what, according to him, are the most important points in the activities and teachings of Jesus. Each one of them has a concern that he tries to transmit to his readers and to the communities: today we live in a place and era quite different from those of Jesus and the Evangelists. What for us is the greatest concern today in relation to the living out of the Gospel? Is it worthwhile that each of us should ask him or herself: What, for me is the greatest concern?
b) A commentary on the text:
Mark 1:21-22: Amazed at Jesus’ teaching, the people form a critical conscience in themselves.
The first thing that Jesus did at the beginning of his missionary activities was to call four persons to form a community together with him (Mk 1:16-20). The first thing the people see in Jesus is the different way he teaches and speaks of the Kingdom of God. It is not so much the content, but rather his way of teaching that is striking. The effect of this different way of teaching was the critical conscience formed in the people in relation to the religious authorities of the time. The people saw, compared and said: He teaches with authority, unlike the Scribes. The Scribes taught the people by quoting from the doctors, the authorities. Jesus did not quote any doctor, but spoke from his experience of God and of life. His authority came from inside of him. His word was rooted in the heart and in the witness of his life.
Mark 1:23-26: Jesus fights the power of evil
In Mark, The first miracle is the casting out of a devil. The power of evil took hold of people and alienated them from themselves. People were crushed by fear of devils and by the action of unclean spirits. Today, too, the fear of devils is great and on the increase. Suffice it to see the interest in films on the exorcism of devils. Not only this. As in the times of the Roman Empire, many people live alienated from themselves because of the power of the means of communication, of advertising and of commerce. People are slaves to consumerism, oppressed by bills to pay by a certain date and the threat of creditors. Many think that they are not worthy of respect if they do not buy that which advertisements tell them on television. In Mark, the first sign of Jesus is that of fighting evil. Jesus restores people to themselves. He restores their conscience and freedom. Could our faith in Jesus succeed in fighting these devils that alienate us from ourselves and from the reality of God?
Mark 1:27-28: People’s reaction: the first impression
The first two signs of the Good News of God that people see in Jesus are: His different way of teaching the things of God and his power over unclean spirits. Jesus opens a new way of purity for people. In those days anyone declared impure, could not come before God to pray or receive the blessing of God promised to Abraham. He had to purify himself first. Concerning the purification of people, there were many laws and ritual norms that made life difficult for people and that marginalized many people considered impure. For instance, washing one’s arm to the elbow, sprinkling oneself, washing metal glasses, cups, jars, etc. (cfr Mk 7:1-5). Now purified by faith in Jesus, the impure could once more prostrate themselves in the presence of God and no longer needed to observe the ritual norms. The Good News of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus must have been a relief for people and a cause of great joy and tranquillity.
Further information: casting out devils and the fear of people
* The magic explanation of the evils of life
In Jesus’ days, many people spoke of Satan and the casting out of devils. There was much fear and some took advantage of this fear in others. The power of evil had many names: demon, devil, Beelzebub, prince of devils, Satan, Dragon, Dominations, Powers, Authority, Sovereignty, etc. (cfr. Mk 3:22.23; Mt 4:1; Ap 12:9; Rom 8:38; Eph 1:21).
Today, when people cannot explain a phenomenon, problem or pain, sometimes they have recourse to explanations and remedies from tradition or ancient cultures and they say: It is the evil eye, it is the punishment of God, it is some evil spirit. And there are those who seek to silence these devils through magic and loud prayers. Others seek an exorcist to cast out the impure spirit. Others still, urged by the new and sadistic culture of today, fight the power of evil in other ways. They seek to understand the cause of evil. They seek a doctor, and alternative medicine, they help each other, call community meetings, fight the alienation of others, organise mothers’ clubs, syndicates, parties and many other forms of associations to cast out the evil and improve people’s lives.
In Jesus’ days, the manner of explaining and solving the evils in life were similar to the explanations given by our ancient traditions and culture. In those days, as we read in the Bible, the word devil or Satan often pointed to the power of evil that led people astray from the right path. For instance, during the forty days in the desert, Jesus was tempted by Satan who tried to lead him by a different path (1:12; cfr. Lk 4:1-13). On other occasions, the same word pointed to a person who led another by a wrong path. Thus, when Peter sought to divert Jesus’ path, he was Satan for Jesus: “Get behind me Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s” (8:33). At other times, these same words were used to indicate the political power of the Roman Empire that oppressed and exploited people. For instance, in the Apocalypse, the Roman Empire is identified with “the great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world” (Ap 12:9). In Mark’s Gospel, this same Roman Empire is given the name of Legion, a name given to the devil who ill-treated people (Mk 5:9). At other times, the people used the words devil or spirit to indicate aches and pains. Thus people talked about the devil of the dumb spirit (Mk 9:17), of the deaf spirit (Mk 9:25), the devil of the impure spirit (Mk 1:23; 3:11), etc. And there were exorcists who cast out these devils (cfr. Mk 9:38; Mt 12:27).
All this shows the great fear people had of the power of evil, which they called devil or Satan. When Mark was writing his Gospel, this fear was on the increase. Besides, some Eastern religions were spreading the cult of spirits, who acted as intermediaries between God and humanity, considered as devils, demiurges or demigods. These cults taught that some of our gestures could irritate the spirits, and they, to wreak vengeance, could prevent our access to God, and thus deprive us of divine benefits. So, through magic rites, loud prayers and complicated ceremonies, people tried to invoke and calm these spirits or demons, so that they would not bring harm to human life. This was the form that some religions had met in order to defend themselves from the influence of the spirits of evil. And this way of living one’s relationship with God, rather than freeing people, bred in them fear and anxiety.
* Faith in the resurrection and the victory over fear
Now, one of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus was to help people free themselves of this fear. The coming of the Kingdom of God meant the coming of a superior power. Mark’s Gospel says: “But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.” (Mk 3:27). The strong man is a figure of the power of evil that keeps people chained to fear. Jesus is the stronger man who comes to chain Satan, the power of evil, and to snatch from him this humanity chained to fear. “If it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you!” (Lk 11:20) This is what the writings of the New Testament insist on, especially the Gospel of Mark, the victory of Jesus over the power of evil, over the demon, over Satan, over sin and death.
As we have seen, in this Sunday’s reading in Mark’s Gospel, the first miracle of Jesus is that of the casting out the devil: “Be quiet! Come out of him!” (Mk 1:25). The first impression Jesus makes on the people is that caused by the casting out of the devils: “He gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him!” (Mk 1:27). One of the main reasons for the discussion between Jesus and the Scribes is the casting out of devils. They calumniated him saying: “Beelzebub is in him…It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out!” (Mk 3:22). The first power given to the apostles when they were sent on a mission was the power to cast out devils: “…giving them the authority over unclean spirits” (Mk 6:7). The first sign that goes with the proclamation of the resurrection is that of casting out devils: “These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils (Mk 16:17).
The casting out of devils was that which impressed people most (Mk 1:27). It went to the very heart of the Good News of the Kingdom. By means of it, Jesus restored people to themselves. He gave them back common sense and a conscience (M 5,15). From beginning to end, in almost the same words, the Gospel of Mark repeats unceasingly the same message: “Jesus cast out devils!” (Mk 1:26.34.39; 3:11-12.22.30; 5:1-20; 6:7.13; 7:25-29; 9:25-27.38; 16:17). It seems to be like an endless refrain. Today, however, rather than use the same words all the time, we use different words to send out the same message and we would say: “Jesus conquered, chained, dominated, destroyed, beat, eliminated, exterminated annihilated and killed the power of evil, Satan who frightens so many people!” What Mark wants to say to us is this: “Christians are not allowed to be afraid of Satan!” By his resurrection and by his liberating action present among us, Jesus chains the fear of Satan and gives birth to freedom of heart, determination in action and hope on the horizon! We must walk along the Path of Jesus with the taste of victory over the power of evil!
6. A prayer with Psalm 46 (45)
God, revealed in Jesus, is our strength!
God is both refuge and strength for us,
a help always ready in trouble;
so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil,
though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,
and its waters roar and seethe,
and the mountains totter as it heaves.
There is a river whose streams bring joy to God's city,
it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High.
God is in the city, it cannot fall;
at break of day God comes to its rescue.
Nations are in uproar,
kingdoms are tumbling,
when he raises his voice the earth crumbles away.
Yahweh Sabaoth is with us,
our citadel, the God of Jacob.
Come, consider the wonders of Yahweh,
the astounding deeds he has done on the earth;
he puts an end to wars over the whole wide world,
he breaks the bow, he snaps the spear,
shields he burns in the fire.
'Be still and acknowledge that I am God,
supreme over nations, supreme over the world.'
Yahweh Sabaoth is with us,
our citadel, the God of Jacob.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.