|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 1:21-28 NAB
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus casts out demons with the power and authority of God Himself. He frees us from their lies and from the darkness of sin. This is truly a gift and a great relief.
Our present secular culture needs this gift. Marked by the highest levels of anxiety and depression, the darkness from which these symptoms often proceed need to be cast out with the authority and light of Christ.
The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), explored the relationship between darkness, sin, and anxiety in his work The Christian and Anxiety (Ignatius Press). He notes,
|“The main effect of darkness is that it separates, isolates, makes lonely.”|
Similarly, the darkness of sin separates the sinner from others, isolates him from God whose light he evades to continue in sin, resulting in dark loneliness. In Exodus, the penultimate plague aptly describes the culmination of Pharaoh’s obstinate evasion of God, who had made Himself visibly manifest. A darkness came over the Egyptians for three days, “a darkness to be felt” (Exodus 10:21) The dense, suffocating, darkness effected a social paralysis, symptomatic of their spiritual sickness.
|“and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light where they dwelt.”|
Von Balthasar further wrote that the loss of light signifies the loss of reality. Without light we cannot see and therefore remain trapped by our imagination. Reflecting on Wisdom chapter 17, he writes, “The wicked are afraid of Nothing, of nothing real.” God is Reality. His divine Name, Yahweh, which means “I Am”, revealed Him to be existence itself. Therefore, to hide from His Light, to duck His Truth, means to retreat into an imaginary world of one’s own creation. In addition, it deprives us of the answers we need most of all – Who am I? What is my purpose? What’s the meaning of life? How do I find happiness?
Like living in denial of a physical illness, one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to leave untreated.
Sin can become paralyzing. Moreover Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness so as to keep a person from reentering the light. The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness.
And into this darkness, Christ the Light came. He “spoke with authority” because he spoke Truth, thereby dispelling lies. His Light cast out the demons of darkness, His Truth cast out the Father of Lies, and His merciful love strengthened and healed so that the sinner might become whole again. How many miracles of Jesus demonstrate this! The paralyzed man who could walk again. The lepers, cast out from society, healed and able to rejoin their families. The demoniacs freed and restored to their loved ones. Christ’s light shone on prostitutes, tax collectors, and pagans. He liberated them from a kingdom of degradation and made them citizens and children of His Kingdom of God.
Christ continues to bring His light into the darkness through His Mystical Body the Church. He invites us into His healing love, then His light begins to shine in us. Wherever we are, that light shines simply by union with Him.
Elizabeth Leseur (1866-1914), a devout Catholic living in an upper-class, atheistic, French society provides a concrete example of how to be a light in darkness. Elisabeth and her husband Felix loved one another intensely and shared an inspiring intimacy of marital friendship. As a result, it pained her severely that he was an ardent atheist. Her love for God and her love for Felix were both so deep, and yet she couldn’t share that deepest part of herself with the man she loved the most, nor see him receive the joys and graces she enjoyed as a Christian.
She made it her apostolate to pray and sacrifice for his conversion and for their friends. Most everyone in their society of friendship were intellectuals and anti-Catholic. Her diary reveals how she prayerfully navigated ministering to them, bringing light to the darkness through her hidden interior life, her faithful exterior practices, her patient silence, and her readiness to speak boldly and intelligently for Christ if the moment necessitated it. After her death, her husband discovered her secret diary. The insights into her interior life, together with his experience of her daily love during their married life, softened his heart and converted his soul. He went from being a hardened atheist to late becoming a Catholic priest!
Elisabeth brought her light into the darkness and it freed the one she loved the most. One of her resolutions in her diary, can be instructive for us in the same effort. In today’s Gospel Jesus spoke with authority and it struck people. Elisabeth discovered the same thing in her own interactions. She found that somehow her personal conviction of faith, was itself a strong testimony, strengthened more by authenticity and simple truth than by long explanations trying to persuade. She writes,
|“Each time the conversation leads me to speak of faith, I will do so simply, but in a direct and firm way that will leave no doubt as to my convictions. Cleverness is nothing in such things; I am struck with the fact that unbelievers have more sympathy with people of deep faith than with those of variable and utilitarian views. These dear unbelievers attend more to those who are ‘intransigent’ regarding the Faith than to those who by subtlety and compromise hope to bring them to accept the Faith. And yet the bold statement must be made with the most intelligent sympathy and the liveliest and most delicate charity.” The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur; Sophia Institute Press|
Our culture suffers under “a darkness that can be felt,” but Christ’s light shines into that darkness to cast it out and replace it with freedom.
|“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5|
May the light of Christ shine in us!
- Are there shadows of darkness with which you struggle? Bring them to prayer and expose them to the light of Christ in Scripture and the sacraments.
- Compare who the world says that you are and what your worth is, with who Christ says that you are. Which do you listen to more? How might you strengthen Christ’s voice within you?
- Spend 5 minutes of silent prayer, loving Christ and receiving His love.
- How might you grow your relationship with Christ and let Him shine more brightly in your life? How might you bring His warmth, love, and truth to those in your life?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Resolve to pray for and develop a deeper love for Christ and to shine Him more brightly.
- Pray the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi daily.
- Pray the Rosary. Mary always purifies and strengthens our love for Jesus.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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