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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

“The man with an unclean spirit” not an isolated incident. What Jesus does with the man or, better, for the man gives us a good hint of what Jesus is all about. In the Gospel of Mark that man serves as an image of the condition of humanity, our human condition left to ourselves. It is an image of the condition of hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness in the face of the grip that evil has on us when left to our own devices.

It really is not so far fetched: Just think of the devastation and pain brought on by suicide bombings we witness so often on the news. Or people starving to death and the inability, or is it the unwillingness, of the rest of the world to come to their aid in an effective way. We may make up a slogan “Make poverty history”, but that is as far as it goes. Or people imprisoned by the inability to forgive. Or the breakdown of relationships that people initially have invested so much of themselves in --- and then see them come to pieces, with the resulting confusion and pain. Or people fearful of the future.

All these are incidents which display in some way the power of evil that Jesus has come to do battle with. Jesus is God’s way of setting us free. That is who God is, the liberator. That is so typical of the God of the Scriptures: he sets free. He does not imprison us. We are imprisoned enough already. Jesus is the prophet whom the Lord would raise up, as mentioned in the first reading. And as God’s servant he does what God does best, give freedom, give life.

Do we recognize ourselves in the man with an unclean spirit? Do we dare to place ourselves under the liberating power of this Jesus?

Is it true that as someone said “the less we pray, the less we open ourselves for this Jesus, the less we give ourselves over to the liberating power of Jesus, …. the more counsellors and psychologists we need”? This is not to slight counsellors and psychologists, but can they really free us from the power of evil, from our different kinds of imprisonment? Jesus has been sent on God’s behalf to break the power of evil.

Perhaps the most significant line of today’s Scripture texts may well be: “O that today you would listen to his voice. Harden not your hearts.”

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