Homily for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, January 31, 2021. Gospel – Mark 1:21-28. Theme: The Power of His Presence
These past few days as I was reflecting over today’s Gospel in preparation for our liturgy, I just couldn’t get out of my mind all the conflict and bitterness that has descended upon our country. I asked the Lord to show me what message of hope he might have for us. That’s when the idea popped into my head that the possessed man in today’s Gospel can be seen as a symbol of us, or more properly speaking, as a symbol of our nation. And this makes sense to me because our nation is exhibiting the classic signs of demonic activity and obsession.
You see, wherever evil spirits act they give rise to discord and division, they encourage anger and hatred. It seems to me that we can see these signs of this hellish influence in the actions of our dominant political leaders and their accomplices in the media today. They spew forth a plethora of godless ideas and plans, hiding and manipulating facts, suppressing opposing voices, and canceling with a vengeance those who dare to oppose them. They attack and distort what has always been held by Americans as good and true as they speak old familiar words but give them new twisted meanings. Like the possessed man in today’s Gospel, we the people stand in desperate need of a power greater than ourselves, greater than the forces that seek to control us, to restore us and our nation to sanity and serenity.
I think that the Gospel today does indeed show us the way out of this mess and gives us a message of hope. Going back now to our story we see that as soon as Jesus enters the scene, without even saying a word, the demon within the man cries out and begins to cringe and weaken. Then at the simple command of Jesus, the hellish power enslaving him is utterly destroyed. This happened simply and solely by the power of the presence and word of Jesus Christ. And this is precisely what we need to heal and restore us as a nation.
This is the Gospel’s message of hope to us today. It’s calling us to be more conscious and aware of our mission as Christians to be the presence and voice of Jesus to the people of our nation. It is through us that others can be brought into direct contact with this power of Christ’s Presence and be set free. You see, this is possible because each one of us at our Baptism, has been made a partner with Christ. We have both the privilege and the responsibility to be extensions of his Presence and power as we carry his message of hope to those around us.
But how can they hear this message of hope if we who know it do not speak? And so, we cannot afford to be shy or timid. If we want to be instruments of peace and reconciliation, we have to be willing to witness to Jesus. We have to be willing to speak about him when opportunities arise. We have to be willing to share what a difference he has made in our own lives. And we have to be willing to stand up boldly and respectfully for truth when others speak falsehood.
To carry out this mission faithfully, we have to rely upon the Sacrament of the Eucharistic Body of Christ because this is what gives us spiritual power to function as the Mystical Body of Christ, his Church. It is above all in the Blessed Sacrament that the Risen Lord is really and truly present and when we receive him we become his living, breathing tabernacles, carrying his presence to those with whom we live, work and socialize. And the more often we receive him with intentional faith and mindful devotion, the more powerful his Presence becomes within us. The more we open our hearts to Christ, the more he can live in us and reach out to others through us.
Now, I know that this sounds like a nearly impossible task for small group of Christians such as us here in a little section of Marin County. And, indeed, it would be if that was all we were. But we are way more than that. We are just one small part in the universal Mystical Body of Christ. And our assignment from Christ in this mission is not to be responsible for the whole world, but simply our little slice of it! The potentially overwhelming nature of our mission reminds me of something St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said. She was asked how it was that she didn’t get totally discouraged in her works of charity by the fact that there were millions of starving people in the world. She replied, “I don’t look at millions. I just look at one at a time and do what I can help that one.” That should also be our attitude in the mission of hope that the Gospel lays before us.
It’s a huge task but it has to start somewhere. It has to start with someone. It must start today with me and with you if we truly want to restore peace and unity to our nation. Because the one true solution to our national dilemma is not found in political platforms, educational programs, or medical strategies but in the conversion of hearts set free from the forces of evil by the power of the Presence of Christ.