We are here to celebrate and to give thanks to God for the fact that he has kept the following promise to a “T.”
Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you(Moses) from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.
He has kept this promise by sending us his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. But why should this be for us cause for rejoicing and celebrating? Because, as this promise is kept, we are free of fear to die if the Lord God gets close to us.
Deuteronomy 18:16 ‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
We know that in our smallness and insignificance we will die if the Lord were to show us a speck of his divine majesty directly, without the shield of human flesh. So, we give thanks to God for he is giving us a share of his life in a way that we, in our smallness, can handle: i.e. through the flesh of his Son!
The passage from the Gospel of Mark (1:21-28) describes the utter surprise in those who were the first ones to witness God made flesh touching them, turning their lives upside-down and transforming them. While waiting for this promise to be fulfilled, people were fed by their scribes a steady diet of trite teachings that were old, boring stuff reheated over and over again. Yet, that is all that the scribes and scholars of the law could manage to offer until, on a Sabbath, a carpenter from Nazareth bursts into their flat, stale Synagogue’s service. And everything changes.
What follows fills them with sheer astonishment. Their surprise is happening on all fronts, at once, and they begin to sense that God has visited them veiled in bearable, human forms. There is surprise that a carpenter, an artisan with only a basic education would outshine and confound the local teachers of the law to the extent of embarrassing them with the newness and the solidity of what is coming out of his mouth.
What he is teaching them is new, ground-breaking, revolutionary, but also totally compelling, obviously genuine, irrefutable, irresistible. There is surprise that his teaching is followed by actions that no one else would even dare to dream possible: he cures someone on the Sabbath. They must be wondering if there is more than a touch of madness in this carpenter who came down from the hick village of Nazareth, unless, unless he is the Prophet promised by God to Moses way back then.
Could it be? This is what this carpenter says about the Sabbath:
Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Even the most sacred laws are for the benefit of God’s people and not the other way around.
Finally, there is a bigger surprise: Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, first confronts head-on the dreaded evil spirits that were plaguing their lives, drives them out of a poor man, right there, before their eyes and, effortlessly, resists their attempts at controlling him by calling out his name and revealing his true identity.
Now, the fact that this Gospel passage is read to us must not be a simple recollection of what took place some 2000 years ago at Capernaum, but also an invitation to react with utter astonishment and surprise before what Jesus, God among us, wishes to do to us, to our minds, to our hearts, to our lives, to our future. Simply put: God is keeping his promise to us, too, so that he can reclaim each one of us for himself in a way that should generate incredible, irresistible joy and, yet, not causing us to die of fright. Our God reclaims us for himself through ways that are effective, incredibly powerful yet gentle and soothing at the same time.
In his veiled presence, we have to establish, then, if we ourselves are somehow possessed by some forces of evil.
- There could be an addiction that is destroying us from within and gnawing at our relationships with those around us.
- There could be a high degree of anxiety that spoils our days and keeps us awake at night.
- There could be a paralysis caused by a trauma in our distant past that frustrates our sincerest efforts and makes us feel often so very inadequate.
- There could be a subtle presence of evil that we suspect to be there lurking somewhere inside, hard to define, but whose influence makes us frequently hesitant and edgy.
- Or it could be a lukewarm inner disposition that flattens everything especially our relationship with the Lord.
Whatever that might be, Jesus wishes to burst into our life and confront that unclean spirit and drive it away from us.
In all these cases, his intention is very clear because, for the last 2000 year and counting, he has been doing the very same liberating process himself, directly at first, and then through his ministers to whom he has given his own authority over the forces of evil. His Word spoken through them has not lost any of its original power for as long as we believe that its effectiveness comes from his divine heart always filled with love and compassion. His Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist are also designed to free us of whatever is afflicting us in ways that are even visibly indicative of what he intends to do. And they are always guaranteed full and lasting success to the extent of our faith in him and our willingness to cooperate with his grace.
The Lord fights by our side and within our mind and heart. Yet, today should be just one of many future days in which we must allow ourselves to be surprised, utterly astonished, joy-filled and grateful. It is meant to be so because we have learned that our God cannot bear the thought of evil occupying us and claiming us for the forces of darkness, falsehood, emptiness, frustration, inaction, aloofness, resentment and unfruitfulness.
Our God cannot stand to let the Evil One, Satan, dehumanize us even if in mild forms which might be less troubling and, thus, tolerated by many. It is so because his Son Jesus has already committed himself all the way to this liberation and, in his cross, has conquered even death itself. His Resurrection is the guarantee that the Lord will continue to free us and will not rest until we are all lifted into the realm of the divine, until we are truly and completely his for all eternity.