Homily 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 1:22-28
I thought I would begin this morning with a short catechetical teaching. This short lesson is fitting as today, our Parish, has accepted 3 individuals into the order of the Catechumen, therefore, what better time to give a short refresher on the traditions and doctrines of the Church. So here we go.
The Liturgy of the Church is governed by its own calendar which is identified as the Liturgical Year. A fact that is most obvious when Catholics greet one another with the phrase, “Happy New Year!”, though it is not on January 1st. On what Sunday does the Liturgical Year begin?
The liturgy of the Church has two cycles, a weekday cycle and a Sunday Cycle. The Sunday cycle is divided into three years, labeled A, B, and C. 2020 was Year A. 2021 is Year B, and 2022 will be Year C. In Year A, we read mostly from the Gospel of Matthew. In Year B, we read the Gospel of Mark and chapter 6 of the Gospel of John and in Year C, we read the Gospel of Luke.
Now for the 2nd question of the morning; Does anyone know why Year B is my favorite cycle? (Because the Gospel of Mark is my favorite Gospel!)
Mark’s Gospel is a Gospel of action… what Jesus does.
In today’s Gospel account Mark tells us that Jesus went into the synagogues of Capernaum to teach, and that he did so with authority. An authority that was not typical nor had been previously experienced. Mark emphasizes that reality when he relates an incident when, while Jesus was teaching, he was confronted by a man possessed with an unclean spirit. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to be quiet and to come out of the man, and those who witnessed this event, Mark reports, were amazed.
To help put this into context, today’s account in the Gospel of Mark is beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Following his baptism, and sojourn to the desert for 40 days, and after his recruitment of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, Jesus travels to Capernaum, and sets up “home base”. He starts teaching in the synagogues and does so with a supernatural authority. And it is here, in the 25th verse of first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus demonstrates that he came to humanity for our salvation and overcame evil.
Evil’s power is in its disguise. It hides itself in the world and in ourselves. In today’s Gospel account we hear how evil disguised itself and hid among those who were seeking Jesus. We hear its challenge to the authority of God in a human voice and we see its futility and powerlessness when confronted with the entirety of God’s revelation of his goodness in Jesus Christ.
Do not be mistaken there is a worldly evil. St. John Paul II introduced the terms “structural evil”, “institutionalized sin”, and “corporate evil” to describe groups, organizations, and institutions whose policies and actions are intended, either by design or by default, to destroy life, exploit creation, and dehumanize the poor and vulnerable. Groups, organizations, and institutions possess no soul and so cannot be held responsible for the evil that is propagated by its members, yet the effects of the evil that is instituted are no less mitigated.
Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are evil… They are disguised in political parties, institutions, and governments and are falsely professed as necessary for the good of society.
Poverty is evil… It is disguised in platitudes, empty acts of charity, and practices that, in the end, benefit the rich and exploit the poor.
Greed and lust are evil… Both are disguised through the culturally accepted attitude that the possession and the manipulation of both things and people are symbols of influence and power.
There is personal evil. This evil is evident in our personal sin and is often disguised in self-created false personas of personal piety and righteousness.
We disguise our sin behind words of empathy and concern. Which are but thinly veiled evils of gossip and rumor.
We disguise our sin behind words of correction towards others. When in reality, we are just calling out our own sins which we only can see in those around us.
We disguise our sin with words of exclusion. Demanding that others adhere to our self-created and self-imposed standards of perfection and holiness.
We disguise our sin behind isolation and withdrawal. Instead of reaching out in love and compassion we push away, reject, and ignore the woundedness of others. We build walls of division and deny the grace and mercy of God to those who are in most need.
And, finally, there is Evil. The Catechism identifies evil not just as an abstract concept, but as a person; Satan, the Evil One, the Fallen Angel. This Evil disguises itself with light. The very name, Lucifer, means the Bearer of Light, and he will often appear as light when in fact he is the very darkness which the light of Christ came to expel.
Yet, in spite of these evils we need not, dare I say must not, fear evil. Evil has no power over those who confess Christ as their savior. The power and authority over evil, which Jesus displayed in that Capernaum synagogue some 2000 years ago, is given to us, those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.
So, I ask, what is our response to this evil? Do we continue to allow evil, in all its various forms, to wound, divide, and overpower? Do we shield our eyes and stop up our ears to a world which is crying out for healing and salvation?
The Church provides us the answer when it states, “there is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.” (CCC 309)
Therefore, our response to evil is entirely contained in our response to Christ. When we say “we believe” we are in fact professing our faith in Christ who overcome the evil in this world. “We believe” that evil has no power over us! “We believe” that goodness will prevail, and we accept our responsibility of being the good in this dark and lost world.
Today, we are challenged to overcome evil. To do good, to be the good, in this dark and divided world. Will we respond in the confidence of the supernatural authority of Christ? Will we believe?
Homily 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time