Jesus then went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region. (Luke 4:31-37)
Over the years, you and I have seen our share of evil. We shake our heads in sadness when there is an outright act of evil. Mass shootings are one. Violence against a person unable to protect himself/herself is another.
But evil is not always so easy to detect. Sometimes it is subtle and insidious. Often it appears in disguise. One of those instances is when evil seeks to have us question ourselves and doubt that God is with us. When we are tortured by fear and discouragement, we struggle to even recognize the presence of God when He finally does manifest himself.
Most people journey throughout their lives between “Lord, save me!” and “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Our entire lives are a voyage between these two invocations.
It’s in those moments of despair or grief or immense insecurity that evil seeks to build a wall between us and God.
When you and I feel that we have come to the end of our rope, that nothing new can happen, today’s gospel reminds us to believe that God can move us forward just as Jesus drove the demon away.
When we find ourselves alienated from our friends, because we said something that was wrong, did something that was cruel, or tried to slip by with a lie, we can find our relationships in shambles. Today’s gospel reminds us to believe that estrangement does not have to be final, that apologies work, and that humility has traction. God can heal what is broken.
When we are dismayed because of the bad decisions made by our children or our grandchildren, we say, “Things could have been so well if they had used money responsibly, if they married somebody else, if they avoided alcohol and drugs. But now they are finished. They have no future.” This gospel asks us to believe that God can still surprise us. God can still move the people we love beyond their mistakes.
If evil has as such access to our lives, then our strategy cannot be how can I prevent evil from coming, but rather how do I deal with evil when it arrives? If we cannot keep evil away, then we must ask, “How can I confront it?”
This is when we need to hold on to our faith. We believe in faith that we have access to the power of God, a power that is stronger than the power of evil. So, when evil touches our life, we can draw upon our faith in God and ask for God’s assistance. Faith allows us to have courage in the face of sickness, to have hope after divorce, to find strength even in failure and peace in the face of death. The same Jesus who drove the demon out of the synagogue is our Lord. We can turn to him and ask for his strength as we face the demons in our lives.
If an unclean spirit can appear in a holy synagogue, evil can touch us in any place. Therefore, when evil enters our lives, it does not make sense to ask: “What did I do to invite the demon in?” Instead, we should turn to the Lord and ask him to drive the demon out.
Gracie Allan once said, “never put a period in your life when there should be just a comma”. So too, we must remember to never put a period where God has placed a comma. Our lives may have ground to a halt. But where we find ourselves is not the end. We believe in a God who can do new things and is committed to save us. Jesus can drive the demon out. Our God can move us past the painful pause and lead our lives to a blessed conclusion.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you have the words of everlasting life. May I never doubt your saving love and mercy, and the power of your word to bring healing, restoration, and freedom from every sin and oppression.”
The evil around us is not always visible. But truth flushes it out. When the evil emerges, it might well cry out to us, “What do you have to do with us? Have you come to destroy us?” The answer to that is question is “yes,” because we like Jesus are called to expel evil from its hiding place and then build the Kingdom of God.