The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
January 31, 2021 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 1:21-28
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
Religions define and describe the world for their membership. Some acts are judged good and some evil. Some places are thought of a holy and some profane. Some ideas are labelled true and others false. The Jewish religion in the time of Jesus had rules about what was good and pure and what was not. Impurity was to be avoided. And if someone was judged to possess an impure spirit, that person was to be avoided no matter what. It was thought that impurity was contagious. (A little like contagious diseases like Covid-19).
So, we find Jesus in today’s gospel in a holy place (a synagogue) on a holy day (the Sabbath). And who should appear there but someone the community judges as having an unclean (or impure) spirit. Without elaboration here, we should mention that belief in spirits all over the place was common at that time.
So perhaps this unfortunate soul with the impure spirit could have been someone people simply didn’t like. The community clearly wanted to get rid of this fellow. And they asked Jesus to help solve this matter. And as I read this narration, Jesus prefers not to show the fellow the door, but rather deal with him directly. Address him (and the unclean spirit) and do what he can to free the man of his unwelcome guest.
Instead of avoiding the situation, Jesus walks directly into it. He’s not interested in building walls or rejecting people simply because they are different, or because they may be thought of as posing a threat to the community. Rather, he goes out of his way to connect and confront evil – whether real or imagined. In another part of the gospel, it states that he came especially for sinners. I assume that meant those who truly were sinful and those who the community might have falsely judged as such. Jesus came for all of us. Using current verbiage, his mission and ministry was totally inclusive.
How this addresses each of us will vary depending on our own judgements of others. We all carry prejudices and judgments of the communities we belong to and follow. In fact, religious prejudice can be terribly vicious. Religious wars are among the most vicious in all history. And they are still being waged in many parts of the world.
Pope Francis has made it a hallmark of his papacy to affirm the dignity and sanctity of all people and all religions. Some have criticized him for being too generous with his affirmations. Would Jesus have acted any differently?
©David M. Thomas, PhD