Notice During the Covid-19 Outbreak
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January 30, 2021
A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Dialogue, deep conversation and lively exchange, is found throughout the Gospel of Mark. Usually the exchanges are short, pointed, and imply something about what it means to follow after Jesus. As Jesus is participating in the Synagogue services, he is confronted with an evil spirit who is tormenting a man to the point of destruction. What is surprising in this narrative is the calm at which Jesus responds to the demon. Jesus “dialogues” with the demonic forces in a calm, respectful, yet forceful manner.
How we might understand the demonic today is a matter of debate among many people. Authentic interpretation does not argue with the text but engages the narrative to discern the wisdom and implications of the proclamation.
The demonic forces “know” who Jesus is. Yet, their “knowledge” does not imply faith or trust in his word. They seek to know if their time is limited (see Mark 1: 24). “Knowledge” of Jesus requires the willingness and courage to do what he has done. The Great Masters of the Traditions of Humankind have all referred not to themselves but to the behavior necessary for the practice of true and honest religion and spirituality.
We experience, in our own time, how the Name of a Blessed One can be used for ill. Think of the seditionists who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021. Many of them prayed in the name of Jesus before destroying property, hurting people while several died. Those tragic events tell us the temptation to do something evil in the name of God is a constant threat to our well-being as a people and a Nation.
Arguments about the nature of the demonic misses the point of Mark’s Gospel. Those of us who speak in the name of Jesus must be careful to act like Jesus in all the affairs of our lives.
Our actions, responses, and speech are all dependent on our attitude of life. Jesus has already decided to have disciples who would give life (Mark 1:17). We must be life-givers if we would faithfully follow after Jesus.
Jesus confronts the powers of evil in such a way as to not demonize the persons involved. Confrontation and accountability cannot be motivated by prejudice or the desire for revenge. We must seek to understand the root causes of terrorism, sedition, prejudice, and hatred without justifying any of it.
The Gospel narrative emphasizes the fame and authority of Jesus. We must remember, however, that his authority is one of service to hurting and oppressed people (see Mark 10:45). His authority was based on the fact he had the courage to confront the demonic even as it identified his in lofty theological terms.
We have all learned, in our life experience, how our speech can be for a blessing or a curse. We must speak up, tell the truth, confront the lies, if we would ever stop the hate, prejudice, or fear.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for striving to be a word of blessing in these most difficult of times.