Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete Iorio
January 30, 2021 - 5:00 PM
January 31, 2021 - 8:30 AM
At the beginning of his public life, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. People realize that there is something new in the way he teaches. Those who heard him were amazed at the way he spoke. Jesus did not speak as the scribes. His authority sprang from his loving relationship with his Father. Jesus was not sharing what he learned from books, nor what he had learned from teachers, but what he learned in prayer and in his intimacy with God.
Mark gives us an example of this authority in Jesus' confrontation with the "unclean spirit" that had possession of a man in the synagogue. In the time of Jesus, religious people knew that everything that came from God was good. So, people believed at that time that anything considered bad came from evil forces. They attributed all kinds of illness to unclean spirits. It may be that the man suffered from epilepsy, but people saw the work of the devil in his illness.
We tend to be naïve about evil, at least as to what it looks like in everyday life. Our picture of evil has been falsely shaped by images taken from mythology, religious cults, and from books and movies that portray evil as personified. Demons haunt houses, appear at séances, are summoned up by Ouija boards, contort bodies, and are exorcized by the sprinkling of holy water. Whatever evil does reside inside this concept of demonic forces (and you can believe in them or not) is infinitely eclipsed by the ordinary face of evil which daily shows itself in ordinary life.
Mostly we are blind to the hidden evil that builds up inside us, tears communities apart, and eats away at God and goodness. The Gospels can help us understand this.
In the Gospels, the evil one has two names because evil works in two ways. Sometimes the Gospels call the evil force “the Devil” and other times they call it “Satan”. What is the difference? In the end they both refer to the same force but the different names refer to the different ways in which evil works, according to Fr. Ron Rohlheiser. Devil, in Greek, means to slander and to tear things apart. Ironically, Satan means almost the exact opposite. It means to unite things, but in a sick and malevolent way.
So evil works in two ways: the devilish works by dividing us from each other, tearing us apart, and having us habitually slander each other so that community is forever being torn apart through jealousy and accusation. The satanic, on the other hand, does the opposite, with the same result. The satanic unites us in a sick way, that is, through the grip of mob-hysteria, group think, self-serving ideologies, racism, sexism, envy, hatred and in many other malevolent ways so as to draw us into mob-hatred, gang-rapes, lynchings, and crucifixions. It was satanic forces that engineered Jesus’ crucifixion. The only way evil succeeds is to disguise itself as good. The crowd rationalized that one man had to die.
When we unite in ways that are rooted in selfishness, economic privilege, racism, sexism, false nationalism, envy, and hatred, we cease being a community and become instead a sick mob, which at the end of the day, ends up chanting, as did the crowds on Good Friday, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
But the Good News (and it really is Good News) of the Gospel teaches us something very important. By giving authority to Jesus and His way of love, we can learn other values, attitudes, behaviors: those that are in accordance with the mind of God. We can understand that we are all brothers and sisters; that we share the same planet which is God’s sacred creation; that there are no superior and inferior races; that we all have the right to peace and security; and most of all, that there is no person who is not loved by God.