Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More
by Angela M Jendro
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4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Read the Gospel of Mark 1:21-28
Jesus casts out demons, 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. He noted, “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 signified 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” (Exodus 10:22-23).|
Von Balthasar asserted 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 wrote, “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. It deprives us of the answers we need most of all – Who am I? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? How do I find happiness?
Denial as a coping method may be alluring, but rarely helpful. For example, avoiding the truth about a physical illness provides a temporary relief and façade of healthiness. However, the illness usually worsens without treatment and the anxiety one initially avoided only intensifies due to procrastinating the cure. In the same way, one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to deny.
Sin can become paralyzing. Left untreated for too long it can feel insurmountable. Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness to keep a person from reentering the light. The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness.
Yet, into this darkness, Christ the Light broke through. 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 the sinner could 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 marriage, softened his heart and converted his soul. He went from being a hardened atheist to later 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 wrote,
|“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.”[i]|
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. As St. John testified:
|“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 and through us!
[i] Elisabeth Leseur, The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest, Sophia Institute Press, 2002.
- 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?
- 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.
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