Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 28, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Dt 18:15-20 / Ps 95 / 1 Cor 7:32-35 / Mk 1:21-28
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Since the first of January, a group of fifteen men here at Holy Name, including me and Deacon Eddie, embarked on a spiritual journey called Exodus 90. There are also nineteen women in our parish who are doing Nineveh 90. These two groups are doing the same type of spiritual exercises.
Here are a few of the things we do for ninety days that might be of interest to some of you. In addition to weekly prayer meetings, we also do daily meditation, spending at least an hour a day on personal prayer, and fast twice a week. The ninety-day ascetical program includes no alcohol, no desserts and sweets, no eating between meals, no soda or sweetened drinks, no televised sports (Since the Super Bowl is coming, maybe we have to talk about this.) Computer and mobile devices can be used for school and office purposes only; regular and intense exercise; and a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. (The last one I found easy, because I really love to sleep.)
What is the purpose of all this? The goal of these spiritual exercises is to achieve the freedom necessary to fully engage in the love of God and the love of neighbor. We also are getting other benefits on the side. Many of us lost as much as ten pounds in just the first couple of weeks as a side effect. But the physical benefits are a bonus; the primary goal of this program is self-mastery and openness to the will and mystery of God, to achieve the perfect freedom which only the Lord can give.
This is supposed to be the goal not only of those who joined Exodus 90 and Nineveh 90, but for each and every one of us who are God’s children.
In the gospel that we have just heard, when Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, there was a man there with an unclean spirit. When the Lord rebuked him, the unclean spirit convulsed the man and with a loud cry came out of the man, and at that instant he was free. The people there were amazed by His power and authority, and they exclaimed “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.”
Of course they didn’t know that the Son of God, the Christ, the Savior of the world was in their midst. We are blessed because we know better. We thank God for the gift of faith He gave us, for we believe that the same Jesus that drove the unclean spirit out of that man is the same Jesus who is in our midst as we all pray together in this Mass, and He is the same Jesus whose Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity we will receive in the Holy Eucharist a few minutes from now. He is with us always because we are all temples of the Holy Spirit.
We also know that we cannot just relax and enjoy God’s presence in our life. We still have to do something to nourish our faith and give encouragement to those who are undergoing trials. Needless to say we should always be on guard. In the first letter of Saint Peter, the apostle said “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is roaring like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.”
As God’s children we are not afraid or even concerned about the devil because he has already been defeated. For as long as our faith is strong, the enemy’s tactics will not work on us. But we are also aware of the fact that the world around us is not exactly encouraging us to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, and we should resist temptation until the end of our lives.
Many of us here still remember Tom Faucher, our head usher for many years here in Holy Name. I asked Wayne before the beginning of the Mass, “How long has it been since Tom passed away?” His guess was five years, but he told me “Ask Nancy and she will tell you the date and the day and the hour.”
About five years ago after Sunday Mass, Tom asked me to give him the last rites. But then I asked him “But Tom, why? We just played golf together last week and you did a lot better than me.” He said, “I will undergo a pretty serious surgery tomorrow, and I may not make it. But whatever happens I would like to be at peace with God, so please give me the last sacraments.” And I did. Before he left the church that day he gave me a firm handshake, and he smiled and thanked me for giving him the opportunity to serve our church.
As we all know he was born into life eternal during the surgery the following day, but he crossed the door which we call death to enter into everlasting life with faith and hope in his heart. This is what truly matters. For it is through our Lord Jesus Christ, in Him and with Him, that we can experience freedom and peace in this world and the next.