|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
July 15th,2018 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 6:7-13 NAB
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Jesus conquered Satan, and just as He healed persons afflicted by demons, He also gave His authority to His apostles to drive them out as well. Jesus personally extends this opportunity for freedom to you and I through the ministry of His Church and His grace. The question is only if we will invite Christ and His followers in and accept healing, or refuse to listen and force them out.
Satan and his demons, even if they do not take total possession of a person, can and do take control of pieces of us whenever we allow ourselves to be bound by their lies and their allurements.
Whereas Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). How can we discern between the two? Truth builds up and encourages. Even if it’s not what we want to hear, it always leads to our true good and real happiness. In contrast, Satan’s lies derail us from happiness and discourage us, even to the point of despair.
His common tactics include whispers that you are not worthy, that you cannot be loved, that you will never find happiness, that you are a failure, that God is a tyrant and faith is an illusion. Broken with despair, Satan offers false hope through sin. He promises that happiness can only be found in pleasure so seek it without restraint or any moral boundaries. He urges you to look out only for yourself and seek total independence – from any need of others and from God, and from anyone relying on you either. The fruit of these lies however only reveal that the truth is true – that these do not bring happiness but intense sorrow, loneliness, and a degradation of your true dignity. We need only to look at our secular hedonistic culture to see evidence of this. In its pursuit of pleasure and freedom without God or morality, it has produced widespread depression, high suicide rates, slavery to addiction, and callousness toward the dignity of human life.
Contrary to Satan’s lies, the truth is in fact liberating. You CAN find joy and happiness living a moral life in relationship with Christ. Where do we find evidence of people who experience real freedom of soul, peace of spirit, and radiate joy? In the lives of the Saints and in the lives of everyday Christians who strive to live a life of holiness with the help of grace.
Christ came to conquer sin and death that we might experience freedom and the fullness of joy (see John 15:11). In today’s passage we see that He does this by giving His own authority to those He had chosen and sending them out to us. Christ gave His saving Truth to His Church, not because of the apostles’ perfect character but simply because He willed it and wanted to personally extend His Gospel throughout the whole world. He continues to do this through the apostles’ successors today, the bishops, who are also flawed human beings, and yet still messengers of the authoritative and saving word of God. He also does this through every baptized Christian, whom He calls to be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel.
We need witnesses of this reality to give us hope and the strength to choose Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Consider the battle with addiction. At first it offered relief from pain and promised feelings of happiness for the person. Instead it brought loss and self-destruction. Still, the idea of giving up that addiction may feel like facing a life of misery. The testimony of those who have conquered it and now experience freedom can strengthen the addict to reach for the hope of happiness in sobriety instead of reaching for their drug.
Similarly, in a culture obsessed with lust, chaste love may appear like misery. The joy and freedom testified by chaste singles and faithful married couples prove the lie to be wrong. Especially impressive today, are those who struggle with homosexual desires who choose chaste love. Their witness directly contradicts the current propaganda that they won’t be happy unless they have homosexually physical relationships. (For examples of their testimonies, see the website couragerc.org).
Satan tempted Jesus to be king without the Cross, and he tempts us the same way. Nevertheless, Jesus proved that suffering and death brings resurrection and grace. Following Christ will not be pleasurable all the time, but it will be joyful and meaningful. The days of my children’s births were not pleasurable, but they were the most joyful and meaningful days of my life. Any noble and worthwhile pursuit will require sacrifice, but there’s a kind of pleasure in the sacrifice when you know you are working toward something great. What greater work can we do than taking Christ’s yoke upon us and building up the Kingdom of God?!
Jesus confronts the lies we cling to and our sin. We must say yes to Him to be free of them, thus the call for repentance before being able to receive healing. Oftentimes our response to being convicted of sin is to become defensive, attack the messenger, or walk away. To this response Jesus tells the apostles to “shake the dust from their feet” and move on to those who are open to His Word. Yet, sin is precisely where the demons have a foothold in our heart and deprive us of true joy. You may not feel strong enough to overcome a sin, but by acknowledging your sin and inviting Christ in, and His Body the Church, He can drive the demons out and fill you with His peace; and one day you might get to be the hand of Christ to help someone else in your situation. The choice is up to you.
- Think of one sin you struggle with the most.
- What are the lies and rationalizations that keep you tied to this sin?
- People were free to accept or reject the apostles. Consider how receptive or defensive you are toward those Christ sends to you. Who specifically are those persons in your life?
- Invite Christ to free you with the help of His grace, to accept His Truth and to detach from the lie or sin you are struggling against. You don’t have to do it alone, He gives you the whole Church, infused with His own authority and grace, to strengthen and support you.
- The Truth is true. How might you witness to this by your words and life?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Identify one specific, practical way you will reach out to accept the support of Christ’s Church to help you overcome your sin and receive freedom and healing.
- (Examples: talking openly with a spiritual friend or your priest; receiving grace through attending a daily Mass; meditating on Scriptures or spiritual books that address your particular struggles; going to the sacrament of Confession…)
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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