January 28, 2024; Mk 1:21-28; 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
What is perhaps most interesting about today’s Gospel is its location. The events unfold in a synagogue, in a religious space. Jesus comes on the Sabbath to the synagogue to preach, and when he enters he finds a man with an unclean spirit, that is, a man possessed by a demon. So what is a demon doing in a holy place? We expect to find demons roaming in the wilderness or perhaps in some dark alley. Why is this demon sitting confidently in a house of God?
The location of the demon is important because it reminds us that just because you and I come to this holy place to worship God, it does not guarantee that every evil will pass us by. Just because we believe in Jesus and try to live as his disciples does not assure us that our lives will always run smoothly or that our hearts will never be broken. Just because we pray and trust and serve does not mean that we are protected from sickness, rejection, or violence. When trouble emerges in our life, when our dreams dissolve before our eyes, it is easy to say, “Why is this happening to me? I am a good person. I am a person of faith. I believe in God. Why did Jesus not keep this evil away?” Today’s Gospel tells us that we believe in Jesus not to keep evil away but to unite ourselves to the One who will help us face what evil might come. We believe so that we can unite ourselves to the Lord who has the power to rebuke evil and to drive the demon out.
So if your friend betrays you, if your marriage falls apart, if you receive a fatal diagnosis, that does not mean that you have done something wrong. It means that evil has drawn near. That can happen in any place, sacred or profane. But the good news is that in every place, the One in whom we believe is with us. Jesus is there to save us.