Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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By Bishop Larry Silva
January 31, 2021
[St. John the Baptist Church, Kalihi]
About a week ago there was a tense drama at the Chancery Office that reminded me of today’s Gospel. A man who had severe mental problems came in and started screaming obscenities at the receptionist and tried to kick open the office door. He was on the first floor and could be heard on the eighth floor. It was like this man in the synagogue who, all of a sudden, started screaming with a diabolical voice. Although the Gospel does not mention it, I imagine it must have been very frightening for those who were present. In the Chancery incident a good Samaritan who happened to be passing by saw what was unfolding and took it upon himself to confront the man who was scaring the receptionist, and the only casualty was frazzled nerves. In the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus dealt with the problem, not be ushering the frenzied man out but by ushering out the demon that was in him. Jesus was the authoritative prophet Moses alluded to, who spoke with the power of God, because he is God.
Now not all demons are so dramatic. Some of them are very subtle. There are demons who destroy a marriage by taking a little problem or disagreement and amplifying it as if it were the biggest problem in the world. There are demons that make us blind to the plight of the poor, living in our own comfortable realities while others around us suffer; or they make us deaf to the cries of those who suffer, so that we do not notice when friends or family members may be struck by depression. There are demons who have a way of twisting the truth, so that people defend an atrocity like abortion, thinking they are doing something noble for the liberation of women from oppression; or who convince people that right is wrong and wrong is right. There are demons who take the gift of sexuality that God has created in all its wonder and who twist it by convincing us that it is primarily for our own selfish pleasure. There are demons who take the beautiful goods that God bestows upon us and convince us that they are never enough, so that we must wear ourselves out getting more and more. These may not frighten us, because they are not convulsive or loud, and so we may not even identity them as demons, but they definitely try to throw us off from God’s loving plan for our lives.
Where is Jesus in all this, we might ask? Can’t he send a legion of angels from heaven to drive out these demons so that they do not drag us down? It is important for us to remember that when Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit into his Church, he empowered the Church to be his Body here on earth. He gave us his own body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, so that we could become what we eat. And so we, who are members of the Church, are commissioned to speak with the authority of Jesus himself to cast out all these demons from the world.
Just as some of the demons are more subtle than the one we see Jesus confronting in today’s Gospel, so our confrontation of them in Jesus’ name may also be more subtle. A demon that amplifies hatred can be cast out by our patient and persistent commitment to love, even when it is most difficult to do so. A demon who twists the truth can be rendered ineffective if we stay close to Jesus, who alone is the Truth, who alone has authority over all things, good or bad, and insist on living in the truth, no matter how many are living a false narrative. A demon who ruins relationships can be cast out by our insistence on remaining committed to one another, no matter what may happen. As we witness the multiplication of demons in our world, we need not be afraid, if we stay close to Jesus and are not afraid to accept the mission he gives us of sharing in his divine life and power.
Of course, as Moses points out, there can be false prophets as well, those who speak up for their own ideas or ideologies, and who do not speak in the name of God. If we are not to be among them, we need to constantly stay close to Jesus in our worship at Mass and our prayers throughout the hours of the day. A false prophet may also be indicated by trying to create drama when the exorcism needed is subtle and must be done through the very undramatic means of prayer and fasting. Demons know who Jesus is, and they will know if one who seems to oppose them is really their ally or if that person is so connected to the Body of Christ that they are simply powerless against them. They will know whether we primarily seek our own fame or whether we are truly authentic by seeking to spread the fame of Jesus our Lord.