Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit
Today Mark presents Jesus performing his first miracle. It is not a fact that happened by chance, but in the intention of the author of this Gospel, it summarizes and represents all Jesus’ future activities.
We are led to the City of Capernaum, the place of Jesus, on a Sabbath day to a Synagogue where, as usual, people were gathered to read and comment on the Word of God. We know that the assembly was always led by a Rabbi, but every adult Jew could take part in it and even share a comment about the readings. To deliver a homily is not a simple thing; therefore most Scribes just repeat the idea of some respectable Rabbis rather than taking the risk of expressing their own opinions and interpretations.
The Gospel of today narrates that Jesus had begun to teach and that it was highly appreciated by all because, differently from the Scribes, he used to teach with authority. Probably Jesus did not reduce his teaching to the repetition of what others had already said, but he comments on the Scriptures freely and with originality.
This time, during his teaching, something unusual took place; a man possessed by an unclean spirit, who until that moment was calm without bothering the other participants, now begins to shout and even invest against Jesus. The encounter between Jesus and the possessed man here acquires a symbolic and important value.
We already noticed that the man was already in the Synagogue and did not cause any trouble. The bad spirit was there without bothering anyone, and thus nobody did anything against it. This kind of peace, this kind of state of non-aggression and tranquility satisfies all, except Jesus. He does not accept a situation in which possession by evil is tolerated, where a person is subjugated by the devil.
In the confrontation, the devil reacts first, since it is the weaker party and feels threatened, afraid that his kingdom might collapse. Jesus does not do like the dramatic exorcists of his time, but answers firmly, straight to the point, with orders: be quiet! Get out of him! And so he does, to the delight of all those who watch the scene, the evil spirit leaves the man.
Now let us think, what is a demon? Demon is all the forces acting to dehumanize the person.
We can surely say that all racist sentiments that lead to hatred and discrimination, injustice, effects of drinks and drugs on those who are addicted to it, greed for material possession, uncontrolled sexual passion, all of these, just to mention few, are demons.
When these demons do not cause much damage, we tend to leave them quiet without bothering them, ignoring the inhuman condition of those who become their victim. Jesus, on the other hand, does not stay quiet and wants to liberate them and He is firm, for He relies on the powerful Word he has.
Two things continue to happen in our days: one is that many people afflicted with “evil spirits,” victims of demons keep on coming to our liturgical celebrations, but no one dares to touch the issue. On the contrary, preachers are quite skilled in going through without awakening the wrath of the bad spirits.
The other thing is that when priests, in their preaching, denounce intolerable situations and lead the crowds to think more critically, it is not unusual to hear angry comments such as: Why do the priest have to talk about these things; there is separation in between the Church and the State; priests should take care of the altar and sacristy and not talk about politics, economy and social problems.
As a community of believers, our struggle is the struggle of Jesus: to liberate the human person from all that enslave him or her and we are invited to rely on the strength of Jesus’ word.