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. . .
We’re in the 4th week of Ordinary Time
of our new Liturgical Year—
a year where we concentrate on
the Gospel of Mark.
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
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.
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. . .
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.
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”—
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
(Story of A Soul, Chapter 1)
Victory!!! . .
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