Starter: Today we live in a virtual world. We are empowered by technological developments. We encounter visual reality through pictures, videos, music, movies, and colors. Our imagination and ideas can be decoded and captured into concepts which can be seen, heard or felt through our senses. Thereby we encounter things with the help of virtual reality. Today this poses a massive challenge to our spiritual world. It definitely cannot facilitate an encounter with Jesus Christ. More importantly it becomes a hindrance to our spiritual growth. Pope Francis profusely says, “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard.” Christian spirituality calls for a personal encounter with Lord Jesus Christ.
Development of the text: Today’s Gospel text is from Mark. In this text we come across the encounter between Jesus and the man with the unclean spirit, and the impression it makes on the bystanders. Significantly, Jesus chooses the first activity of his ministry place as the synagogue. On the Sabbath, the service in the synagogue would feature prayers, Scripture readings and teaching. Anyone of sufficient learning could be invited to teach, there was no need for rabbinic ordination in Jesus’ day. When Jesus spoke, he needed no authority beyond himself. When he spoke to the people, they were amazed and the note of personal authority rang out, and that is the note which captured the ear of every man, unlike the scribes. We further find the most important moment; the man possessed with unclean spirit recognizes the powerful presence of the Son of God, calling Him, Jesus of Nazareth. The man’s behavior was controlled by an outside force that is Satan. Therefore he objects to Jesus interfering in His domain, referring to him as, Jesus of Nazareth, to put into people’s mind low thoughts about Jesus, because no good thing was expected out of Nazareth, and as everyone believed the messiah would arise from Bethlehem. Further, he gives confession to Jesus, “The Holy one of God.” In the Old Testament, God is usually the Holy One. Here the title implies that Jesus has a special relationship with God. The demon acknowledged the true identity of Jesus something that the disciples were slow to do. This signifies the coming of the Kingdom of God and end of demon’s power. By the fact that Jesus heals the possessed man with the words only, it shows the teaching authority of Jesus. The people in the synagogue encounter Jesus’ new teaching and are amazed. The possessed man is now healed encounters the liberating power of Jesus. Similarly in the first reading, Moses is assuring the people that Yahweh will send a prophet like him, indirectly this reference is made to Jesus. God gives Israel numerous encounters of have life transforming experience. To name one encounter- the Exodus experience. In the Second reading, St. Paul tells the church of Corinth specifically to free their minds from all worries and give undivided attention to the Lord. All that which disquiets the mind and distracts it in the worship of God is evil; for God must be attended upon without distraction. In other words, it calls to seek God with undivided attention.
Application: 1) Our Christian Spirituality calls to have an intimate encounter with the Lord. Therefore, as Pope Francis says “With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” This joy comes through a personal contact with the Lord through Prayer. Although we may have tough times but we are assured by Jesus to face it joyfully and gracefully. Fulton sheen puts it beautifully, “One of the first effects of praying a daily holy hour will be to get rid of any evil that is in our life.” 2) Secondly, we need to open our hearts to Jesus to heal it of unclean spirits like hurtful memories, anger, greed, jealousy, indifference and selfishness which blocks the grace of Jesus Christ to penetrate our lives. The reaction of demon reveals to us who Jesus is, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and “the Holy One of God.” This should stir us to examine on how we look at Jesus and the extent to which we allow him to exercise his power in our lives. 3) We need to become aware that God continues to reveal his mind through the chosen prophets. Do we value the critical interventions of today’s priests, religious and lay faithful who are guided by the spirit? God never stops his initiative to reach out to humans. He loves us deeply. Therefore, my dear friends let us seek to have an encounter with the Lord every day so that he cleanses us to be a light in his Kingdom. Lets us reflect on this question How do I encounter Jesus Christ in my daily life? I would like to end with refrain of today’s psalm “O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts.”
– Bro. William