“Faith for the Followers”
January 31, 2021
4th Sunday After Epiphany
1 Corinthians 8:1-3, 10-13
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
The gospel in Mark 1 continues with the proclamation of Jesus of the kingdom of God. Last Sunday, Mark writes that Jesus started His ministry proclaiming that the time is fulfilled. The time is ripe; the time of principalities and powers are up, but now the kingdom of God takes over. Jesus encourages those who hear Him to repent, to change their minds and their ways. Shift from following the evil ways of the kingdom of Satan, and now, repent and believe (trust in) the gospel of Jesus. Don’t trust in the ways of the world, but trust in forgiveness, in peace, and in not using retaliation and revenge. Do not fret; cease from anger; trust in the Lord even if we see the others continuing in the ways of the world and prospering for in a little while, they will be no more, as Psalm 37 says.
In the gospel today, we see Jesus in the synagogue invited to speak. People were astonished and were shocked because He was extraordinary as He was teaching with authority. Authority means “ex ousia” –with authority. Jesus was speaking out of His own substance. He was unlike the scribes who would appeal to Moses and would quote other rabbis and use traditional interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures. Jesus speaks out of Himself. In Matthew, Jesus said, “You have heard from of old…but I say to you…” Jesus was not to abolish the Law but was to fulfill it. The Pharisees and the scribes knew how to quote the Scriptures but they obviously missed the spirit of it
In the synagogue, there was a demon-possessed man. It was the synagogue; a church; an assembly of the people of God. Demons are around us; they are among us. I don’t subscribe to the idea that demons are like those we see in horror movies, but I believe that they are present among us. They would rather be subtle which would make them more effective. When the serpent approached Adam, it did not come a hoof, horn, or with a spear, but simply with a question asking Adam. Satan and the demons, in envy of us who were created in the image of God, would like to destroy this image in us. They have lost this image so they deceive us. Satan planted doubt in Adam’s heart by saying, “Is it true that if you eat that fruit, you will die? Maybe God is afraid that if you eat that fruit, you will be like Him?” The truth of the matter is that Adam was already created in the image and likeness of God, so the serpent was deceiving him.
This is how the demons operate and we should be sensitive enough and stay grounded in the principles of God so that we can discern if a spirit is trying to influence us to lose the image of God and His likeness.
I don’t think Jesus was unaware of the presence of the demons. He did not go around chasing them; He was just proclaiming the kingdom of God and in doing so, the demonic spirits reacted. Presumably, this demon-possessed man had been attending church for a while. He probably had been listening to sermons in the synagogue and may have slept through many of them; and this was the first time that he was agitated because of the presence of the Son of God. The presence of the Son of God is with us, and when we stir up the demonic world by proclaiming and walking in the ways of the kingdom of God, they will react.
The demon-possessed man asked Jesus, “Why are You here? Why are You interfering with us? Why are You disturbing us? Have You come to destroy us? We know who You are! You are the Son of God!” 1John 3:8b says. "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” Beware and be aware of the evil spirits around us. I don’t think they want to be personified in certain forms so they influence our thinking subtly. We are deceived and we drift away from being the image and likeness of God.
Jesus came to destroy all of the schemes and ploys. The principalities and powers’ time is up, and the kingdom is taking over, and for this purpose, the Son of God was revealed: to destroy all the works of evil one. Therefore, beware of these evil spirits:
1.) The spirit of division. Devil or diabolos means to scatter or to divide. In Ephesians, St. Paul says that Jesus came to make one new man of all people. He is not a divider; He unites. Division is against the work of God. The “us against them” mentality is from the devil. If we see our brother as our enemy or as our rival or competitor, then, we are being deceived by a demonic spirit of division.
2.) The spirit of accusation and condemnation. As diabolos means to divide and to scatter, Satan means “hasatan” to mean accuser of the brethren. The devil accuses to destroy. The Holy Spirit convicts to build up. There is the destructive and the constructive criticism. The enemy would accuse us because he wants to destroy us; a friend would give a constructive criticism to build us up. The Holy Spirit is the Advocate. An advocate is one who stands by our side. The Holy Spirit is on our side and He corrects us not condemns.
Being angry, angry, vindictive, malicious, destructive finger-pointing and blaming and condemning are the works of the devil. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of advocacy and of help. He is the Paracletos, standing by our side.
In hypocrisy and being deceived, sometimes, we resort to righteous anger or righteous indignation. James says that the anger of man doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, cease from anger and forsake wrath. Yes, we sometimes get angry and we get impatient, but remember that we have been given the spirit of self-control.
3.) The spirit of violence. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel. He saw him as a rival, as an enemy instead of seeing him as a brother. God warned him that temptation or sin was crouching at his door and that he should overcome it. But Cain yielded to the spirit of rivalry, of accusation, and resorted to violence and eventually killed his brother. After this, he left and built a city whose foundation was his attitude – rivalry, competition, accusation, envy, anger and murder.
The unholy spirit seeks to divide and not make peace. It seeks to accuse and not build up. It seeks to harm, and not heal. It seeks to destroy the Divine image of God in man.
4.) The spirit of domination. It is taking advantage of the weak and the vulnerable
All these spirits feed our sinful nature. It influences us to be turned to being self-centered in contrast to the Divine nature of God which is other-oriented. We think of others, not taking care of our own interests. Jesus said, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, this means that the kingdom of God has come upon you." He was being accused by the Jews and the Pharisees of casting out demons using the spirit of the demons. No, Jesus doesn’t use his weapons. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it is, My servants would be fighting.” Jesus does not use the methods of the devil. He casts the demons out not by playing their game but by establishing the kingdom of peace, unity, and enemy-love.
The weapons of our warfare are not of this world. We overcome evil with good. Some say that Jesus said that violent men take the kingdom by force; therefore, we should be equally violent. Crusaders centuries ago missed what Jesus said and they thought their enemies using the same weapon – by swords, by violence, by murder – and they thought they were doing it in the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is love – “I would rather die for My enemy than kill him.” This is how we overcome the spirit. This is how we win; this is wisdom.
Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments." If we operate in His commandments, this is wisdom. Trust in the ways of God because the ways of God is what will overcome these evil forces. What are God’s ways? Love your enemy; pray for those who persecute us.
This is what the “name of Jesus Christ” means: trusting and following His principles. Defeat rivalry with humility; give preference to one another in love. Defeat accusation with blessing; and let no destructive word come from our mouth but only that which builds up. Defeat violence with peace. St. Paul said, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all.” Defeat dominion with service. Jesus says, “To whoever hits your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you for your shirt, give him your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go for the extra mile.”
Like the disciples of Jesus, we are empowered to cast out demons; not with the weapons of the world, but in the way Jesus did – by proclaiming that the kingdom of God is here by healing the blind, making the lame walk, feeding the poor. This is how we stir up the devil’s nest.
Moses said that there is a prophet coming and the Jews knew about it. The Jews asked John the Baptist, “Are you the Christ, the prophet?” They knew that the prophet God would send would speak in His Name. God said, “If anyone doesn’t listen to Him and speaks in My name, he will be accountable to Me.” Moses said and God the Father in the Transfiguration said, “This is My Son. Listen to Him."
Listen to God. Be sensitive to the voice of God. The Presiders of the Mass are not the prophet that Moses was talking about but they speak in the name of God. Despite their flaws, their weaknesses, they were chosen by God and they speak in the name of God. The question is: do we listen? Do we heed? Do we obey? Or do we sleep or criticize or nitpick? When God’s word is spoken, what we do is not to pay attention to unnecessary things (the way or the manner on how the Presider speaks) but pay attention to what God is speaking. Listen to what is being spoken in the name of God!
When we walk in His ways, this is how we overcome and in the first place, this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.