Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The devil's most devilish when respectable.

"First of all, do everything you can to avoid offending God, but if unfortunately you should commit sin, do not let the devil prevail upon you to not confess it. Remember that the confessor is a father who is eager to do all he can for you and [to] protect you from all possible harm." – St John Bosco

Gospel Text: (LK 4:31-37)
Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.
He taught them on the Sabbath,
and they were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,
and he cried out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Then the demon threw the man down in front of them
and came out of him without doing him any harm.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?
For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits,
and they come out.”
And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

In the 1989 "Batman" film (directed by Tim Burton), the Joker and Batman face-off, with the Joker telling Batman, "I know who you are." As several critics of the film comment, the Joker's remark isn't about knowing Batman's identity as Bruce Wayne. The Joker is telling Batman, "I know the secrets you harbor beneath the mask; your furies and your passions, the dark forces that drive you-I know who you are."

In today's Gospel passage, the man considered to be the mouthpiece of an evil spirit calls out to Jesus in the Synagogue, "I know who you are-the Holy One of God." Jesus rebukes the evil spirit and orders him to leave the man. For Luke, the author of today’s gospel, it is another instance of Jesus, the Son of God who, moved by compassion, heals. Sometimes Jesus heals us from the evil spirits that we harbor in ourselves. Jesus frees us from our infirmity so that the person God created, loved, and redeemed might be able to flourish in the spirit of God.

Two weeks ago, our Sunday's gospel recounted the episode of Jesus with his apostles, and the following conversation:

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church...(Matthew 16:15-18a)

Jesus asks the question of his identity: "Who do you say that I am?" Simon speaks up, naturally, and makes the profession of faith which elicits from Jesus a corresponding response, "You are Peter [a new name, meaning "Rock"], and upon this rock I will build my church."

The interpersonal dynamic with Jesus is clear: in knowing Jesus' identity, we come to know our own, our own identity as Jesus knows us, and as Jesus wants us to become, for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of the Church.

Jesus will recognize all of the human frailty in us, the tendencies to evil that still grip us, the physical and spiritual illnesses that hold us back, and he will free us from whatever keeps us from knowing him, so that we may proclaim, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." In that profession of faith we are freed to become the persons for whom Jesus surrendered his life to the Father, and the persons who are called to the Table of the Lord.

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