ORDINARY 4 (B)
What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? – Mk 1: 24
People create boundaries for many reasons. One of these reasons is that it is the loving thing to do. It respects rights & diversities. Psychologists tell us that people who do not know limits – where they leave off & others begin – do damage to themselves & others. Without boundaries things become a formless mass, & we do not know how to proceed.
People cross boundaries for many reasons. One reason is that it is the loving thing to do. St. Paul said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male & female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3: 28). The revelation imparted to us by our Lord crossed these well-established boundaries. In today’s Gospel, Jesus crosses the boundary of clean & unclean. Jesus represents God’s loving outreach to those whom society, in the name of holiness, had pushed away & whom Jesus, in the name of holiness, draws in. The path of love in a deeply divided society is to cross boundaries.
In the purity codes, a favorite topic of discussion among scribes, people could become defiled by contact with an unclean spirit. A man possessed by of unclean spirit qualifies as contagious. So the scribal teaching without authority was: “Keep away!” The unclean spirit here knows this & counts on it, but it senses something different about Jesus. It tries to defend “it’s territory” by hurling questions at Him to remind Him of the threat of uncleanness.
Jesus, however, does not respect purity boundaries – He trespasses them. A new teaching is being articulated & it comes into existence with power & authority. “Get out!” Convulsing & screaming, the unclean spirit leaves the man. It does not go willingly, but a higher authority has appeared, & it will be obeyed.
Most of us are possessed by unclean spirits of one sort or another. Call it filthy language, or addiction, or gluttony, or pride….the list could go on forever. Nor do they leave us willingly. We may have all kinds of rationalizations for being the way we are, but that doesn’t cut the mustard with Jesus. He reminds us impolitely that we do not have to be the way we are, & the antidote is Him. By putting Him first in our lives, it is possible for us to change. At bottom, you see, the problem is a spiritual one; & He wants us to be free of our entrapments.
The onlookers in today’s Gospel were amazed because they had seen another way to deal with the fear of impurity – not to avoid it but to bring a stronger purity into the situation to cleanse it. The higher spirit of God who descended upon Jesus at His baptism & leads His mission, does not allow lesser beings to harm those whom God loves. It commands them “Get out!” & they get out, taking with them all the pain they have caused.
Today is the start of our annual Catholic Charities Appeal. The whole reason for Catholic Charities is to reach out to others who are hurting in so many ways to let them know that they are beloved of God. Whether the help is material or emotional, the main message is that they are not alone in an uncaring world. People who, for whatever reason might be considered untouchable, need to know that their situation is not permanent. Christ is not deterred by conventional barriers. For that, thanks be to God! AMEN!