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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: February 1, 2015
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Martin Church in Nashville on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015.
Every one of us has problems personally or in our families, and there are huge problems in our world. Physical problems, addictions to all kinds of things — including gambling and pornography, marital difficulties, problems with the kids, immigration problems, unemployment, problems with the boss.
And even more darkness in our larger world — terrorism in Paris, ISIS in Syria, Russians in Ukraine, millions of refugees and victims of human trafficking worldwide. We all need a Savior to break the chains of sins we feel powerless to resist, and set us free from the power of darkness and all the false gods of this world that promise happiness but end up enslaving us instead.
It was no different 2,000 years ago. In today's Gospel Jesus casts out an unclean spirit. Jesus heals the possessed man, saves him and sets him free. Elsewhere he heals 10 lepers, a woman with a hemorrhage, a boy with epilepsy and a paralytic. He opened the eyes of a blind man, the ears and tongue of a deaf-mute, and heals a cripple.
Others are enslaved to compulsions and habits of sin that have taken possession of them almost as if they were possessed by a demon.
At first Jesus was famous mainly as a teacher and healer, and only later did people discover that he was also their Savior, something they realized gradually as they reflected on the meaning of his teaching and miracles ... which we also see in today's Gospel. Mark writes: All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." Mark then adds: His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Have you experienced the power of Jesus to solve the problems in your life? If you will allow Jesus to do so, he will open your heart to the meaning of truths you had not previously understood. And not just your brain, also your heart ... because some truths can only be perceived by the heart. Truths that the world rejects but which are Good News for all who want to be healed, saved and set free. Starting with the dignity of the human person at all stages of existence, from conception to natural death and every point in between. Also truths regarding sexual morality and human rights.
In today's Gospel Jesus frees a man who was tormented by an unclean spirit — in that case the devil — but there are other unclean spirits. Pride is an unclean spirit, so also is envy, lust and greed. Some are possessed by hatred, which makes them feel miserable all the time. Others are enslaved to compulsions and habits of sin that have taken possession of them almost as if they were possessed by a demon.
Jesus can free us from all these unclean spirits as well — but only insofar as we commit ourselves to doing whatever is necessary to stay free once Jesus has done his part. Unfortunately, many people don't really want to be free. Alcoholics who say they want to quit but won't go to their AA meetings. Habitual sinners who say they want to overcome their vices but are unwilling to avoid the near occasion of sin.
For instance, men addicted to pornography who won't ask a friend to install a filter on their computer and not tell them what the password is. They may say they want to quit, but their actions tell a very different story.
How about you? Jesus has come to heal you, save you and set you free. As we saw in today's Gospel, he commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him. Elsewhere he heals the sick and throughout the Gospels he shows us how to embrace our crosses with love and thereby make them redemptive. But we do have to respond... and not just with words but also dedicating ourselves to doing whatever is necessary to stay free once Jesus has done his part.