ON THIS FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME we are reminded of the man with the unclean spirit in the Gospel today (Mark 1:21-28). Perhaps no one would have suspected much was wrong with the man. He was in the synagogue on the Sabbath so he was obeying the Torah. Perhaps to outward appearances at least everything was in order. But inside he was “unclean.” That could be said about any of us. None of us is yet the wholesome and holy person we are called to be. The man in the synagogue suddenly was enraged when Jesus taught. “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!” (Mark 1:24) Jesus’ teaching, the word of God, challenged him and showed him up for what he was and likewise challenges us and shows us up for what we are, throwing light on the dark corners of our lives. Prayer and spiritual reading can reveal to us who we really are. Have you ever considered your distractions in prayer? They may have something to say to you about opportunities for growth in your life. The Lord can also reveal our need of his healing outside of prayer. Our dreams are said to be expressions of our wishes, desires and emotions so they can also reveal who we are before the Lord. Sometimes an event in our lives or our reaction to it may show us up for who we really are when we see our weakness and lack of holiness laid bare. In whatever way our true self is revealed to us, such moments of self-revelation are opportunities for grace, opportunities for the Lord to work on us and heal us and transform us into the holy and wholesome person we are called to be. Such a painful moment occurred in the life of that man in the Gospel today. Jesus cleansed the man of the evil spirit. But it was not easy for the man. The spirit convulsed the man and came out of him with a loud cry (Mark 1:26). There is a sense in which we “convulse” when overcoming evil. If overcoming our attachment to sin were easy we would all be saints by now. The problem, of course, is that we don’t want to face the spiritual “convulsing” involved in spiritual growth. It is easier to remain as we are because such necessary spiritual “convulsing” is letting go of our ego and our attachment to sin. That is precisely why we shy away from it, we don’t want to let go of our ego and attachment to sin. The Psalm today gives a warning about not letting go of our egos – Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works” (Psalm 95:7-9). Instead as the first reading poses, we are to listen to the prophet to be raised up like Moses: “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Folks, Jesus is that prophet, the fulfillment of that prophecy. When we let go of our ego and attachment to sin Jesus takes its place in our lives. The words of John the Baptist about Jesus apply to us at this stage, “He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) That is precisely why this spiritual “convulsing” is necessary for it fills us with God. We decrease but God increases. Let that be our mantra for daily living.
ON A SEPARATE NOTE with great sadness the world remembered last week the evil and darkness of the Nazis on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the prisoners at the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland. Of the more than 1.3 million people imprisoned there, 1.1 million — mainly European Jews — perished, either in the gas chambers or by starvation or disease. The Nazis killed six million of pre-war Europe’s 11 million Jews. The former extermination camp is now the world’s biggest Jewish cemetery. In addition to Jewish people, Saint Maximilian Kolbe (more information on him is in this bulletin), and approximately 100,000 mostly Catholic Poles were killed by German occupiers in Auschwitz’s gas chambers and execution sites. The Nazis also killed Gypsies, Russian POWs and prisoners of other nationalities at the camp, located in Oswiecim, Poland.The site was also the death place for many people who did not fit into the Nazis’ view of their world. Many of the concentration camps set up by the Nazis in World War Two were razed to the ground, but Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated before it was completely destroyed. Now it is a museum – a reminder of systematic killing of innocent persons and other horrific acts that humans are capable of when they turn away from God and embrace evil. Some 300-plus survivors of the Nazi death camp laid wreaths and lit candles at the so-called Death Wall at Block 11 on January 27th to mark 70 years since the camp’s liberation, and remember those who never left. Let us pray for those who died there and at other Nazi death camps during World War Two, pray for a conversion of mind and heart that Neo-Nazis, terrorists, and all hate groups turn away from darkness and sin, and pray that in our lifetime we will see greater respect and dignity of all human life, and an end to the way segments of our population horrifically treat other persons as sub-human and ignoring the fact that we are all children of God.