FEBRUARY 5, 2004 – HOMILY: MARK 5: 7- 13
JESUS BEGAN TO SEND OUT THE TWELVE TWO BY TWO, GIVING THEM AUTHORITY OVER UNCLEAN SPIRITS. THEY WENT OFF PREACHING THE NEED OF REPENTANCE. That the mission of the Lord Jesus in this world consisted in an attack on the powers of darkness is a dominant theme in St. Mark’s Gospel. However, it is not confined to that first of the Evangelists; all four evangelists maintain the same perspective. Behind the overt acts and preaching of our Lord is a deliberate campaign calculated to overthrow the spiritual rulers of this world. The four Gospel accounts vary only in the measure that they emphasize it explicitly. Writing some decades after Mark, St John who had meditated at length on the meaning of our Lord’s life, understood that he is the light of a world that lay in the darkness of sin; his life was a light shinning in that darkness, showing the way to eternal life. St Paul too realized that following Christ entailed a conflict with “the rulers of darkness of this world” (Eph 6:12).
Of course, in modern times belief in spirits, both good and evil , that is, angels and demons, is scoffed at by those who consider theselves enlightened. Science and critical thought explain away such interventions, we are told. Belief in spirits, angelic and demonic, they argue, arises from fears, anxiety, existential dread, wish fulfillment. Some, more consistently, draw the further conclusion that belief in eternity and faith in God are also explained by the same primitive psychic realities. Such reductionist views, however, explain good and evil only on the level of phenomena, of appearances. The spirit world continues to be very real for many of the peoples living today in Asia, Africa and Latin America,. Dostoyevski, in the later years of the 19th century, wrote a major novel in which he depicted the character of those who, it seemed to him, represented the future leaders of Russia. He called the book “The Demoniacs”, better known in English as “The Possessed”. After the Revolution in his country he seemed to many to be a prophet, more in touch with the currents of human affairs than the recognized wise men of his age.
Biologists can describe the chemical process that produces a flower from a seed, but are at a loss to account for the impression that beauty evokes, with greater or lesser vividness- of an eternal world that is more real and enduring than the material, visible universe. Nor can logic alone demonstrate why the perception of certain truths and of some forms of beauty is accompanied by the more subtle moral sense of the gratuity of that beauty. Why is it that the purest love, and vision of the noblest beauty is experienced as freely given, unearned? The heart has reasons that escape the power of the intellect. The whole domain of interpersonal love, unity of spirit through mutual communion in values to mention but a few of the transcendent aspirations of the human heart escapes quantification and so is not subject to rigorous scientific inquiry. This is the domain where the invisible Spirit of God and the angelic spirits operate, and where the demons strive to obstruct the ways of truth and goodness.
Boris Pasternak stated lhe case well: “what has for centuries raised man above the beasts is… the inward music, the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the powerful attraction of its example… the idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because it is meaningful. ” (Dr. Zhivago, 42). And we may add, its meaning derives from the God who created all things, visible and invisible. These are realities perceived more by the heart than by the abstract intelligence.
The primary mission of the Church remains today what Jesus assigned to the apostles whom he sent out: to confront the powers of this world and defeat them by a courageous faith in the person of the Lord and in his word of truth. We encounter these powers within our self as well as in the world of unbelief. Our predecessors in the monastic life had a keen appreciation of this truth. They discovered that fidelity to their call entailed an inner struggle against the vices and thoughts that opened the door of the soul to demons if not resisted. They also understood that they were assisted by good angels, especially at times of prayer. St. Bernard emphasized that the monks in choir were in the presence of the angels who ceaselessly worship God in his glory. At this Eucharist may the Lord empower us in our struggles against the powers of darkness, those within our own hearts and those we encounter without. He comes to us to give us the courage and the confidence we need to carry on his mission of defeating the forces of death and of passing on to those we encounter something of the spiritual energy that his Holy Sprit imparts to all who put their hope and trust in the Lord who is the light of the world. &
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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