Be faithful and live the Gospel truth

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Rawi Alexander, OFM, Cap

Jan 27, 2024

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20;
1 Corinthians 7:32-35;
Gospel: Mark 1:21-28

How many times do you hear: I never go to Mass, I’m a good person, but I don’t follow any faith or “religion” but I’m “spiritual”.

The bigger question is, what “spirit” are you following? If you’re not following Jesus Christ, then you need to ask yourself this question. The reason we are Christians is the fact that we follow Jesus Christ. We do what He tells us to do. Especially in regards to “obedience”.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that the devil, which is also a spirit (albeit an evil one), also knows Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. All “spirits” know Him. The evil ones are the ones who refuse to follow Him. They do everything in their power not to follow Him. They do not believe Him. To “believe” means to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so. Thus, we “Listen” to what He tells us to do, because we know it to be the correct path. We do it because we love Him.

Ask yourself again, what “spirit” am I following if I am not following Jesus Christ?

I know a lot of religious people that have a tendency to think that some of the devil stories in the Gospel are sort of fake. After all, where are they? Why don’t we see them anymore? Well, I have seen one, and it was in a church.

I vividly remember my trip to India many years ago, during which I had the privilege of celebrating Mass in a local parish. As I delivered my homily, an unexpected incident unfolded that left everyone, including myself, in a state of shock. A man suddenly rose from his seat and began crawling down the centre aisle, headed towards the altar. The congregation and I watched in disbelief, anticipating that he would halt at some point, but he persisted, drawing nearer and nearer.

Ascending the steps, he came to a standstill before the altar and uttered something. I strained to understand his words, but could not. As I approached him, his appearance struck me profoundly and the only way I can describe to you what I saw is by saying, “He looked torn apart.” The man was totally broken. In a hushed tone, I urged him, “Stand up. You are not an animal; you are a man.” Taking him by the hand, I guided him to his feet, offering a comforting blessing. In that moment, a tranquillity enveloped him, and the tremors ceased. Members of the congregation came forward, assisting him to the back of the church, where further help awaited him.

Let’s avoid the misconception that the devil was more credible in Jesus’ time than in the present day. Similarly, let’s not idealise the notion that practising holiness was any less challenging in the past than it is today. Acknowledging our vulnerabilities and brokenness is a universal aspect of the human condition, one that transcends time and remains relevant in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Christ’s words are more inspiring, more uplifting, and more believable than any politician’s words during a political campaign. The humanity and divinity of Christ is much more believable than any person I know. What is it that is so amazing about the Lord? What drove people to love Him or dismiss Him or hate Him?

He taught them as one having authority. Having authority is much more than just preaching your own doctrine or quoting a scholar. Having authority means living your life and not allowing others to live it for you. It means being coherent. That is, you live by what you preach; you are not divided or broken. You are One. The possessed man spoke in the plural. “What have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are!”

When we don’t understand something, like God or the devil or a teaching of the Church, then we tend to want to change it rather than to study it or try it.

Try something new! Be who you claim to be! Stop blaming others or making up excuses for your failures or lack of faith. Stop allowing the devil inside you (or outside of you) from taking over.

Try living the Gospel truth and then see what happens! Try being faithful to the Lord! Try being loving and honest. Try being generous without conditions! Try being Christian and holy! Then, and only then, will you have your children’s obedience, your family’s respect and the admiration of doubters and seekers.

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