4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In last week’s gospel we heard Jesus call the first four apostles. We heard how Jesus walking along the sea called Peter James and John with that simply invitation “follow me.” We saw how Peter, Andrew, James, and John, heard that invitation and left their business behind and followed Him. We heard how they heard that invitation and they even left their families behind and followed Him. Last week’s Gospel showed us what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to leave the things of the world behind and to go wherever God calls us to go, trusting that He will provide. Last week, then as we reflected on God calling in our own life. I concluded my homily by pointing out that the Catholic Church is a sleeping giant who has the power to change the world and I asked the rhetorical question what would the world look like if we, as Catholics, woke up and actually hear the call of Jesus and followed just as those first four apostles did.

Friends, sisters we have no choice but to wake up. The status quo is no longer good enough. If you are satisfied with where the world is, we have serious problems. If we can honestly go to bed at night and say everything is just fine, either we are totally clueless about what is going on in our world or we are only focused on our own narrow self. No, if we truly love one another as God commands us to, when we turn on the news, the internet, or read the newspaper, we should be bothered at the status of our world. You know you can look around the world today it can be easy for us to ask where is the prophet that we hear about in today’s first reading. God tells us that he will raise up prophets from among our midst promised would raise up. Well of course you and I are called to be that prophet. In virtue of our baptism you and I are called through the way we live our life, not just to worry about ourselves and our family, but to bring the message of the Gospel to all people and to all places. The good news, for us is that it’s not about allot of talk or convincing people. In just a few moments, we will come forward to receive Communion which we believe is truly Jesus. God will dwell inside of us and we will walk out of the doors bringing Christ into the world.  

Today’s Gospel gives witness to what happens when goodness confronts evil. In today’s gospel there we have a demon who faces Jesus and the demon is driven out. You and I bring Jesus into the darkness of the world and that alone is enough to drive out the darkness in our world. After all “the more visible and powerful holiness becomes, the less the devil can conceal himself.”[1] If we want peace on earth, if we want things to be right in this world, we must be the instruments of change. We cannot be afraid to bring Jesus into the world.  

Look, evil is nothing more than the absence of good. Evil exists when good cease to exist. Evil is like darkness. Just as darkness, just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good and the second you fill something evil with good, the evil ceases to exist. The challenge for us as followers of Jesus, the challenge for us who receive Jesus and take Him into the world is to simply allow the light of His goodness to shine powerfully into the darkness of the evil around us.

I get it, it can be frustrating. We can look around and say I don’t have the position of power or I don’t have the authority to make laws or policy. That’s for others to figure out, but that doesn’t mean it can’t start with us. As a matter of fact the darkness around us provides us a better opportunity for the brightness of Jesus to shine through, for people to really see what they are missing, for people to see how Jesus can really change their lives. If I had a flashlight and I shined it right out here you probably wouldn’t see any light coming from the flashlight, but if I turn all the lights off and I shine that same flashlight, emitting the same amount of brightness, it would seem a whole lot brighter. My friends, the same is true in the world around us. Now is the opportunity, even in the darkness for people to see the beauty of the light of Christ.

You know, today’s Gospel is interesting to me. We are told that it takes place in the synagogue on the Sabbath. These are faithful observant Jews. They are in the synagogue doing what they are supposed to do. Even the man who has an unclean spirit in Him, is in the synagogue. But the problem is that they are just spectators. They watch all this goodness and what does the Gospel writer tell us? He tells us they are left in amazement. They never get off the sidelines, they never jump into the game, they are never willing to follow Christ.

I think I’ve shared this story before and I’ve not had it since I have been at St. Theodore, but almost every year, numerous times someone calls the parish and says “father I think I’m possessed by the devil and I need an exorcism.” My first question is where is your parish and without fail they will often say, well father I’m not even Catholic. So I will ask them why they don’t call their minister and they tell me that it won’t work, because it only works in the Catholic Church. I want to just scream, then why aren’t you here on Sunday? We wait until it gets to the darkest points, when our backs are against the wall and we have no other choice and then we come crawling to Jesus. Why not when the times or good or when the darkness just begins to creep in.

Look friends, our Church has enough spectators, we have enough people standing on the sideline, we don’t need any more. We need people who will actually hear that call of Christ and follow Him. We need people who are willing to come and allow Christ to dwell inside of them so that when they walk out into the world Christ is brought into the world. But if we are going to enter into this drama, if we are going to bring Jesus out into the world, we must first stop and look at ourselves. We must ask ourselves, where am I ruled by sin, where do I excuse myself from God’s way, the teachings of the Church; in short where is there darkness in my own life. Before we can confront the darkness out there, we have to allow Jesus to confront the darkest areas of our life. I get, introspection can be scary, but we have nothing to fear because we know that God forgives our sins and that the light of Christ scatters the darkness of any evil.

For you see, my friends, it is only when our own hearts have been converted and strengthened that can we be authentic witnesses to the truth of the Gospel. Only when we have a deep intimate relationship with our Lord can we go out and be Christ to others. Only after our hearts have been converted and strengthened by God can we lead others in our world out of darkness and the slavery of sin into the light of truth and freedom.

  “Man’s greatest evil is sin, since it leads directly to hell, and that, on earth, it leads to wars and revolutions.”[2] Look at anything bad that happens in our world and you will find sin behind it. The root of the growing evil in our world is the growth of sin. If, we as members of the Body of Christ, are going to wake up and change the world, we must begin by first rooting sin out of our own hearts, then as we continue on the path of holiness, goodness will shine through our hearts and drive evil away. Since “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,”[3] each and everyone of us have been called to be prophets. We must wake up, hear the cry of the Lord and bring Him into the world. For we know with certainty and today’s Gospel shows us that when Jesus confronts evil, the devil recognizes defeat is at hand and is driven out. The victory has already been won, we just have to be willing to be those instruments who bring Christ out to drive out the darkness in our world.

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. pg. 203.

[2] Chanoine Barthos and Pere Fonseca. Our Lady of Light translated and abridged from the original. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1941. pg. 33.

[3] Attributed by many, including President Kennedy in his famous address to the Canadian Parliament in 1961, to Edmund Burke, but no one can authentically trace the quote to him.

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