The story of the man with an unclean spirit coming into Jesus’ presence and being liberated from the evil possession at his mighty word (Mark 1:21-28) reflects the situation each believer should hope to undergo. It tells us too of the conviction we as a people need, that God’s Word is a necessary, potent factor in our collective conversion and renewal.
Word obeyed even by demons
The reign and power of God is all present and palpable in the person of Jesus. His words and deeds exude with the mystery that humankind neck-deep in suffering and oppression is not abandoned by God but rather invited to a new communion. Amid so much hunger for meaning and hope, Jesus as the Word Incarnate heralds on Earth the good news of salvation. His words are not just authoritative as in rhetorically riveting or compelling, but effective in bringing about what is proclaimed. Those who hear and accept his words are changed in their lives; he called out earlier for conversion and faith, and his first disciples left all to follow him.
The reign of God Jesus announced, he made happen. His combative action against the forces of evil backed up his absolute claims. He is the one endowed with power in the Spirit of God; even the devil recognized him as God’s Holy One, the mighty one superior to it and bringing it destruction. The rebuke by Jesus was a formal command that tolerated no disobedience; with his word Jesus exorcized the unclean spirit from the man. He supplanted with the reign of his loving Father the long reign of terror by the devil. To the people, Jesus reveals God’s love and invites to faith; to evil spirits, he asserts divine power and drives them away. And it was in the very synagogue of the Jews that the public acclaimed his authoritative teaching and the devil recognized and obeyed him.
Present in his words
Jesus would remain with his followers until the end of time, not leaving them orphans. Truly, in the sacrament of his words he is ever present in our midst and continues to bring about the reign of God he is proclaiming. He is making absolute claims upon us today if we are to share in his salvation into eternal life. Nobody else has the authority he possesses; nobody else has the power he manifests. His gospel is like the two-edge sword that shapes us and transfigures us in conformity with him. Putting on the mind of Jesus, living according to his gospel values is essential to true discipleship for every baptized and the sign of real faith, as it is the fruit of his mighty word.
It is here that we have to diagnose ourselves, celebrating already the 500th anniversary of the Christianization of our people, as being merely nominal Christians for a great part. We carry the name of Jesus Christ but contradict his teaching; we call upon him but we do not listen to him. With the majority of Filipino Catholics even under normal conditions not regularly going to church on Sundays where the Word of God is proclaimed and celebrated, it is no wonder that so many of us find it difficult to think and speak and behave in accord with Jesus’ gospel. We do need exorcism from the forces of evil, even as we wallow in interminable corruption and abused by pernicious vested interests. Our huge moral deficit is evident even among the preachers of the Word who do not practice what they preach or who are pushing their own gospels.
Alálaong bagá, we need God’s mighty Word to shape us in the divine image. Authentic conversion is only in consequence of listening and living according to Jesus’ gospel. But the Word is spoken to us by human persons and in human words, and so much is at times lost in the transmission. To satisfy our people’s hunger and need for the Word, we also must pray and work to have preachers of the Word who are themselves shaped by God’s Word, so that they can with credibility be instrumental in the ongoing transformation of our people in God’s love and righteousness.
Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on www.dwiz882.com.