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4B Deuteronomy 18:15-20 / 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 /Mark 1:21-28

In today’s Gospel,

Jesus performs his first exorcism.

To hear the modern experts in such things tell it—

exorcisms are on the rise

all over the world. . .

and the interest in exorcism is rising too.

The theory is that as faith in God declines. . .

like it is in our increasingly secularized world. . .

the more the power of the devil and

his demons are enhanced.

I was watching a talk by the exorcist of

the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—

Fr. Vince Lampert.

He was to give a talk on

demonic possession at the

Newman Center at the

University of Illinois on Halloween night. . .

the place seated 800 people. . .

By the time the talk started,

1700 students had packed into the auditorium.

Most were interested in hearing about

what Fr. Lampert calls the

parlor tricks of the demons

that he has seen as an exorcist. . .

like the demon speaking through the

possessed in some foreign language

that the person never studied. .  .

or like the superhuman strength they can manifest. . .

or like knowing things that there’s

no natural way they could have known. . .

or like the possessed person

levitating in the air.

Fr. Lampert advises that we shouldn’t

be so much focused on these parlor tricks of Satan. . .

but instead. . .

keep our main focus on Jesus and

what He is doing in our lives.

Fr. Lampert hypothesizes that

there wouldn’t have been near the crowd. . .

Maybe 17 instead of 1700

if the talk was marketed as a talk on Jesus.

Keep our eyes focused on Jesus. . .

on Jesus

We’re in the 4th week of Ordinary Time

of our new Liturgical Year—

a year where we concentrate on

the Gospel of Mark.

You know,

Mark used to be known as the “stepchild”

of the four Gospels.

First, it’s the shortest of the Gospels.

Second, Mark’s Greek certainly isn’t the best. . .

kind of subpar

And three,

Jesus doesn’t give any

long discourses in Mark. . .

there’s no Sermon on the Mount.

And Jesus does teach much in Mark. . .

there’s no Beatitudes in Mark.

So many thought that Mark’s Gospel

just wasn’t that interesting. . .

But over the last few decades,

all that has changed.

Mark is now considered a literary masterpiece. . .

packed with meaning.

There are even great spiritual lessons

in how Mark puts his Gospel together.

In Mark,

we find Jesus is on a mission. . .

And there’s a great urgency in his mission.

There’s great excitement. . .

There’s a lot of movement. . .

There’s a lot of action.

Jesus did this. . .

And then Jesus did that. . .

And Jesus did this. . .

Boom, boom, boom!!!

Reading the first part of Mark

is like watching the chase scenes

of an action movie. . .

It’s like watching the most exciting parts

of a James Bond movie. . .

or a Mission Impossible movie.

And then. . .

Then. . .

all of a sudden. . .

The story slows down. . .

It slows way down.

when Mark gets to Jesus’ Passion

Mark is so unhurried here.

The Passion makes up a

whopping 40% of this Gospel.

And the scenes in the Passion

are like watching the scenes of

an intense drama. . .

with every frame. . .

with every word. . .

packed with meaning.

It’s like watching the great scenes at

the end of the movie Titanic. . .

 

Slow. . .

 

and deliberate. . .

 

and riveting.

What Mark’s great story-telling conveys. . .

is that we can’t understand

all that went before. . .

We can’t understand all the action. . .

Jesus doing this. . .

And Jesus doing that. . .

We can’t understand the urgency. . .

We can’t understand the mission. . .

Until we slow down

and let the scenes of Jesus’ passion

take hold of our attention. . .

Everything. . .

Everything that Jesus does

Can only be understood

Through the lens of the Passion.

It’s genius.

So even though we’re just in

the very first chapter of Mark. . .

just 21 verses into it. . .

this first chapter is loaded

with important, action-packed scenes.

Mark’s first sentence goes like this. . .

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

In the very first sentence

Mark is declaring victory.

Gospel was a term used in Roman times

to announce the “Good News”

of a Roman military victory.

There’s victory in Jesus.

And then Jesus’ ministry begins.

Jesus is baptized by John the Baptizer.

With this baptism—

Jesus unites himself to us sinners

so we can share in His victory. . .

And then “at once”—

“at once”—

the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out

into the desert where He will confront the devil.

The devil tempts Jesus to forgo his mission. . .

to be disobedient to God the Father.

Jesus tells the Devil “no.”

In Jesus first confrontation with the Devil. . .

His 1st battle with evil. . .

Victory.

And then. . .

And then. . .

You can feel the movement and

the urgency in Mark’s composition. . .

Jesus calls His first disciples. . .

calls followers. . .

calls us. . .

so we can not only be part of Jesus’ victory. . .

 

but we have a part to play in Jesus victory. . .

And then,

and then. . .

more action. . .

more urgency. . .

Jesus goes to Capernaum. . .

He enters the synagogue on the Sabbath. . .

and confronts real evil for the second time. . .

A man possessed by

an unclean spirit comes forward.

And Jesus rebuked him. . .

“Quiet, come out of him!”

And there’s victory again. . .

Victory!!!

You start to see the genius of

Mark’s storytelling. . .

Mission. . .

Urgency. . .

Action. . .

And victory. . .

Major victories over evil just in the

first twenty-some verses of the first chapter. . .

All in anticipation of. . .

And all in the context of. . .

Jesus’ ultimate victory in the Passion. . .

Jesus’ ultimate victory of self-sacrificial love

Defeating anything that can ultimately harm us.

 

I want to end with a dream that a

very young St. Therese had.

 

It was at night,

and she was walking in the garden. . .

and she saw some demons.

At first she was frightened by them. . .

but then. . .

they ran from her.

Therese saw that the demons were

much more frightened of her

than she was of them.

And St. Therese comments that the Lord

etched this dream in her mind

to reminded her that

a soul in the state of grace has nothing to fear. . .

nothing.

(Story of A Soul, Chapter 1)

Victory!!! . .

 

Victory!!!

You see,

even though those 1,800 students

came on Halloween to hear the exorcist

talk about all the parlor tricks of

the devil he had seen. . .

if they were really paying attention. . .

what they really heard was the “Gospel”. . .

The “Good News” was being told

about a great mission. . .

And it’s urgency. . .

And the greatest of victories. . .

the victory of Love. . .

the victory of Jesus. . .

over evil. . .

over anything can harm us!!!!

 

It’s our victory too!!!

Holy Spirit 01/ 30-31/2021