The Power of Christ

01-31-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is quite striking in today's Gospel passage how the demon knew exactly who Jesus was. This shrieking cry from the demon is dramatic and clear in its meaning. To hear "I know who you are" about Jesus from a creature of the darkness and evil knocks us off our seats. This demon, which symbolizes for us all that is evil and dark, is admitting that Jesus is the ultimate threat. The basic truth is that the power and good of Christ is greater than darkness or evil. And this is clear to the powers of evil. Sadly, maybe not so much to us.

The Gospel writer Mark delineates the lines of good and evil quite early in his Gospel. Mark writes in a concise and clear thought structure with unadorned brevity of word. He is telling us in this scene, in particular, that the great and good power of God is totally opposed to the power of evil in our world. The reality and relationships of evils that exist in institutions and people work to keep God's redeemed creatures poor, lost, and unformed. This shrieking man is a great symbol of so much. His shriek causes the people to ask: "Who really is this Jesus who had held them spellbound by his teaching?" Christ says many things that speak of newness and change and also of hope and light. He does not offer the tired prosaic answers and solutions of others. His words bring newness and life.

There is strength and power in the Book of Deuteronomy, our first reading. This Book gave the Jews the great prayer and call: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!" This is called "the Shema." We also learn in this Book that Moses is a great prophet and he is, in fact, the most important one and no other prophet can measure up to him. We must remember that the word prophet in sacred scripture does not mean the popularly conceived idea of a fortune teller, but rather a prophet has the sacred task of speaking on behalf of God to His people. This greatest of prophets tells the people God will yet raise up a prophet like himself who will speak only in God's name. Thus we can understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses. And we can understand how that demon as a spirit of evil was enraged and cried out about Jesus. Indeed has not God raised up one like Moses, but actually greater than Moses?

In Mark's Gospel, the first miracle in his entire Gospel is Jesus casting out an evil spirit; it is an exorcism. Those who heard Mark's Gospel at the very beginning back then knew that they were now witnessing a new time in life. They came to understand that Jesus had power over evil and that sin would no longer reign. This should speak to us to remind us that as followers of Jesus Christ we believe that good will always triumph over evil. When we give in to darkness or chaos as present in our times in so many ways, we fail to recognize the power of Christ in our lives and world. Christ came to bring light to the darkness and we as his followers stand in His light.