Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The First Exorcism

No, it's not a bungled-up movie title. It's today's Gospel, set in the synagogue at Capernaum--a significant locale in all four Gospels. For Luke, the exorcism at Capernaum is the first of Jesus' miracles; a sign of his whole mission to free us from the grip of the devil and restore us to true freedom. Once again, the first reading from St. Paul sheds some remarkable light on the story. Let's start with Paul and what may be the most outrageous statement in the whole Pauline corpus: "We have the mind of Christ."
The mind of Christ? What might that look like? We get a clear picture of what it doesn't look like when we go with Jesus to that synagogue in Capernaum. According to Luke, Jesus, his hair still damp from baptism by John, was "filled with the Holy Spirit," and, "led by the Spirit," he had been tempted (but victorious) in the desert. "In the power of the Spirit" he had come to Galilee and proclaimed (as we saw yesterday) that the "Spirit of the Lord" was upon him. Now there is a face-off with a very different spirit in the form of a fragile, tortured villager. And the evil one immediately betrays his own mind when the possessed man cries out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?"
Destroy. This word is Satan's hallmark. The mind of Satan reveals itself in terms of destruction, chaos, devolution. Look at what the demon is insinuating (it's a common enough supposition even in our culture today!): that Jesus has come to ruin things, to interfere, intrude, disrupt our equilibrium, spoil the little fun we can have on earth. In the mind of Satan, Jesus is a destroyer.
But Paul tells us that "we do not have the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God," giving us to speak "words taught by the Spirit"; we "did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear" (Romans 8), but a spirit of adoption, crying "Abba, Father!" How very different that cry is from the cowering, protesting, whining cry, "What have you to do with us?"
"The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8); when we say "Abba, Father!" it is not we who speak, but the Spirit we have received, giving us the mind of Christ.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Sister -

Thank you for this important reflection. How hard we must pray for strength to keep "the world" at bay.

God bless!