Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homily – 15th Sunday Year B July 15, 2012

Amos 7: 12-15 Ephesians 1: 3-14 Mark 6:7-13

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the twelve the commission
to go out, two by two, and, like him,
to drive out "unclean" spirits.
What are these "unclean" spirits?
In those days there were many manifestations,
which people did not understand fully.
These manifestations, for want of a better explanation,
were attributed to demonic influences and possession.

For instance,
there were some sicknesses which people thought
were due to the influence an “unclean” spirit.
A clear example is the story of the epileptic boy healed by Jesus.
In an epileptic seizure, a seemingly normal person
suddenly begins to act in a bizarre way
as if controlled by an outside force.
It was a long time before people began to understand
physiological and neurological malfunctions in the brain.

There would be similar misunderstandings of people
who were mentally disturbed, e.g. with schizophrenia,
or, of people who had some brain damage,
e.g. people with cerebral palsy.
Probably, most of us have never seen
a person genuinely possessed by the devil,
the greatest of the “unclean” spirits,
although one does hear of cases
where an exorcist has worked with people
who have been possessed by the devil.
Fr. Bob Roetgers of this diocese is in the process
of gaining the experience he needs to function as an exorcist.


While the devil is the ultimate demon or “unclean spirit”,
there are a variety of ways that demonic behavior can be expressed.
Let’s look at some of the “so-called” demons of our time.
What are the “demons” of today that seem to control people,
that can enslave us.
There is the demon of nicotine,
the demon of alcohol and
the demons of heroine, cocaine and other drugs,
the demon of gambling, the demon of promiscuous sex,
the demons of materialism and consumerism,
the demon of spending too much time in front of the TV
the demon of spending to much time with the electronic media
or, in fact, any other activity
which somehow can take control of our lives.
We can become addicted to them and lose control of our lives.
All of these, or any one of them,
can turn us into slaves to the “unclean spirit”, to the devil.
It is the freedom from such demons,
the freedom from the sin that results from these demons
that is at the heart of today’s Gospel.
First, let us consider how we might free ourselves from “demons.”

In our hearing of the commissioning of the twelve,
Jesus today is inviting us also to cooperate with him,
to be his disciples.
The word “disciple” is from the Latin discipulus,
from the verb discere, to learn.
A disciple is one who hears, who accepts and
who carries out the teaching of Jesus in his/her life.
A disciple follows Jesus, imitates Jesus, becomes a second Christ.

Jesus was first telling the apostles how to be good disciples,
how to be good followers,
how to make their lives conform more to his example.
He first showed them how to be confident in their discipleship;
They were to use the buddy system – two by two,
each knowing that they were not alone in their work.
They were not to focus on the material things:
money, food or extra clothes.
He told them the journey would be long and difficult,
So take along a walking stick and don’t be barefoot.
Wear your sandals.
Our journey to free ourselves from the demons of sin
is also difficult and long.
Jesus is also telling us to go through our lives
with the maximum of freedom
and the minimum of burdens.
I can imagine that the apostles were making their mental lists
of what they would need to take with them.
Snacks, a week’s worth of clothing, traveler’s checks.
But Jesus’ directions were:
No food, no backpack, no money, no extra clothes.
We must focus on the bare essentials
and not get tied up in the worldly things.
A life free from demons should reflect the simple life of Jesus.

But there is a second further dimension to our commission.
Jesus wants us to be his instruments of liberation,
to work with him.
This is not just to free ourselves from the slavery to sin,
but also to help others to recover their freedom
from the demons of sin that enslave them.
Can we do that? Most certainly we can.
We help people to be healed from their sicknesses
- not only bodily sicknesses
but psychological and emotional illnesses as well.
It is not only doctors and nurses who can bring healing.

Let there be no doubt about it:
a family member, a friend, or a colleague,
can truly have a healing influence.
We must remember that,
if we are to help people recover their freedom,
we, ourselves, must be free from whatever might inhibit us
from being disciples.

It is significant that in this reading, Jesus sent the Twelve,
the apostles.
Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple
but also to be an apostle, an imitator of one of the Twelve.
An apostle (in Greek, apostolos) is not only a follower
but also an evangelizer.
The word apostolos comes from a Greek verb
which means to be sent on a mission
with a message from a superior,
to be an ambassador, an envoy, and evangelizer.
All who have been baptized have this mission,
this calling, to actively share their faith with others.
We are to share with others our EXPERIENCE of knowing God,
through Jesus.
Paul shared his experience of God through Jesus
with the Ephesians in the second reading.
And we are to do the same –
bring to others the message of our experience of God
through Jesus Christ.
But first the message has to be assimilated
and made totally our own.
We must live the life of freedom from “unclean spirits” –
freedom that has come through our experiences of God.

We are sharing not just words, or ideas, or doctrines
but an experience, our experience of God through Jesus.
The evangelizer invites people –
be they Christians or the non-baptized –
to share this wonderful experience of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Everyone of us is here today because someone,
perhaps many people,
introduced us to know and love God, through Jesus.
That person, those persons, were evangelizers.
We are expected to do the same for others. The apostles were told to go out bringing with them
only the message they had received from Jesus.
We can go through our lives so laden down with things,
with property and possessions
which are an endless source of worry and anxiety.
We become their slaves.
Worries and anxieties can paralyze us
and prevent us from living rich and enriching lives.
It would be worth reflecting today on how free our lives are
and where real wealth is to be found.
We must be rich in all the things which really matter,
in order to be able to enrich those
who come in contact with us.

Like Amos in the first reading, we might protest.

I am "only" a housewife, or a clerk, or an accountant,
or a mechanic, or an electrician, or a teacher...
BUT, because we have been baptized,
Jesus is calling each of us
in our working and living environments to evangelize,
to invite people to know Jesus, to love Jesus,
to serve Jesus, to follow Jesus.
If I want Christ to be thoroughly IN me
he has to COME into me, go completely THROUGH me
and OUT OF me to others.
There is no other way.

Currently we are facing an very serious “unclean spirit”,
one that is attempting to restrict our freedom,
attempting to force us to violate our conscience.
The “unclean spirit” is the demon of conveience,
the demon of pleasure, the demon of wanting to be God.
It is the demon that says
“I am not satisfied with being made
in the image and likeness of God; I want to be God.”
It is the “unclean spirit” that says
people should be able to interfere with
the natural Godly process of conception
and even use drugs to kill a newly conceived God-given life
for the sake of convenience and pleasure
and justify it all as a woman’s right to health care.

It will force us, if we follow it,
to lose our freedom to support the natural process
which God has designed for the beginning of new life
and to lose our freedom to support life at all stages
from conception to natural death.
It is a very serious “unclean spirit”
that has already taken up residence in many,
but it must not become a part of our lives.
We must do all that we can in our prayer,
in our words and in our actions
to expose this demon for what it truly is
and to keep it from taking root
in our lives and in the lives of those around us.