4th Week OT 2012:
For the last few weeks we have been off and running. We heard of the baptism of Jesus. Next, Jesus is selecting disciples. Now, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, driving out demons, and his fame is spreading throughout the whole world. What an amazing time it must have been to be alive! Sometimes a great way to pray would be to imagine yourself there with Jesus. What does it look like when Jesus comes out of the water and the voice from heaven can be heard? Would I have followed Jesus when he passed by? What did Jesus say in the synagogue? What would it have been like to see him drive out demons? This can be great way to pray.
But, we might be tempted to think that these were events that simply happened a long time ago. We might be tempted to imagine that these sorts of things certainly do not happen today. Today Christianity is much different than being with Christ in the gospels. But, this is false. It is certainly true that we might experience Christ differently, but that is not to say that we don't have experience Christ.
First we hear that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. Jesus came with a mission to teach. He came to impart to us the gospel, the good news, the message of Salvation. Jesus was a good teacher, he taught us to love God above all things, to love our neighbor as ourselves. He taught us a great many things. And he continues to teach us when we read the Bible. The words of the Bible are not simply historical record. Rather, when we read and study the Bible Jesus truly teaches us. Further, he left his disciples with a clear command: go and teach all nations. When the Church teaches the message of salvation, it is Jesus who teaches. So, Jesus is teaching right now: anytime someone reads the Bible, Jesus is teaching, anytime someone goes to Catholic schools or CCD, Jesus is teaching. When parents pass the faith on to their children, Jesus is teaching. Jesus has never stopped teaching us the gospel, it just comes to us in different form.
What about the driving out of the demon? Well it is certainly true that the Church continues to perform the work of exorcism, but it doesn't seem as common as it did with Jesus. But, I would argue that what Jesus does in the gospel is to drive out the power of darkness, the power of evil. He did this in today's gospel, but even more in his death and resurrection. Jesus conquers the devil, conquers sin, evil, darkness by his death and resurrection. But, Jesus continues to conquer evil in all of us. Every time we turn away from sin by the power of grace, Jesus is driving out the demons of this world. Every time someone who is despairing finds hope in Christ, Jesus is driving out the demons of this world. Again it might not always happen as it does in our story today, but Jesus is continually driving out the demons of our world.
His fame spread throughout the world, and his fame continues to be spread. We tell the story of Jesus every day. There are over a billion Catholics worldwide, truly his fame has spread throughout the whole world.
I think this gospel story happens at every Mass. Here at the Mass Jesus teaches us, not in the synagogue, but in this house of prayer. He fills us with his life, his grace, which drives out the darkness in our lives. And at the end of Mass we are told: go in peace, which is nothing less than telling us to spread the good news about Jesus. While the events of today might seem a bit different than those of the gospel, it is the same Jesus who continues to teach us, he continues to drive out the power of darkness, especially here through the power of the holy Eucharist.