Homilette for Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 5:1-6.9-11; Luke 4:31-37)

In the gospel yesterday Jesus says that the Spirit anointed him to let the oppressed go free. Today we see that he means business. Before we consider how, let us make a few notes about demons. Most people see demons as tempters nudging the innocent to bad choices. The demons of the gospels, on the other hand, affect people physically and mentally, not morally. True, Satan tries to allure Jesus into sin, but he is the devil, not a demon. Today we seldom speak of demons possessing people as a diagnosis of physical or mental disease. Rather, we use other terms like “cancer” and “bipolar condition” to describe these conditions. Still, we should remember that Jesus came to terminate all forms of oppression

The man possessed by the demon in the gospel is already in the synagogue where Jesus is teaching. Evidently, the words of rabbis and the prayers of the people have not been able to relieve him of his torturer. But Jesus teaches with authority; that is, he both knows what he is talking about and can execute what he proclaims. Jesus’ words provoke the demon to intimidation as it cries out, “’I know who you are – the Holy One of God.’” But Jesus is more than up to the challenge. He speaks even more forcefully in the duel of words, “`Be quiet! Come out of him!’” The demon finally succumbs to Jesus’ power by dispossessing the man.

With medicine’s amazing success over disease we may today have difficulty considering Christ’s healing power. Of course, we can think of Jesus as working through medical professionals. But he also brings people from sickness to health beyond the profession’s capability. True, he may decide not to remove the physical or mental malady affecting the patient. But still, as physician of souls, he will always strengthen those at physical life’s end with the surety that the harmful symptoms of their disease will dissolve in eternal life.