Mk 3.20-35                Gen 3.9-15            2Cor 4.13-5.1

Where to start on this one? It seems puzzling that people of any type are accusing Jesus of madness and being under the influence or control of the forces of evil.

We live in a www as I call it (and I don’t mean the world wide web, a great thing in itself, when used for good or the right purpose!), a wide and wonderful world, but can’t be pollyannas who think everything and everyone is lovely, when in fact it is also a weird or wild and wicked world, where it is evident that there are forces of evil present in the darkness, as seen in the current human conflicts going on in that world, and in the presence of some leaders who see themselves as demagogues, controlling power and wealth, but treating their people with disdain and callous disregard.

It was heartening this week to see the people having a say in India, the world’s most populous country of 1.3 billion,  and biggest democracy, where there was a clear swing away from the religious nationalism which was becoming an increasingly divisive factor.  There need to be checks and balances to keep religion out of politics, and to respect the necessary diversity which is part of any civilized society.  Similarly, in Mexico, a complex country of 131 million, where a female president of Jewish background, who happens to be a climate scientist was recently elected.  So, I’d suggest there are signs of hope here in a divided and diverse world.

Jesus is here concerned about misinterpretation of his words and actions, particularly by the religious authorities, named here as the scribes from Jerusalem.  He was not about power for its own sake, apart from his ability to face evil, personified in the memorable titles of Satan and Beelzebul, and not only to reject, but confront and overcome it.  Dr Google tells me that the names were interchangeable in the Old Testament, as representing evil, Beelzebul, coming from the Canaanite god, Baal, which Moses rejects, and also known as “Lord of the Flies” (well before the 1954 book by William Golding, itself a morality tale about the duality of human nature’s potential for good and evil!), known in demonology as representing gluttony and envy, as one of the 7 deadly demons or princes of Hell, high in the hierarchy of Hell, if there ever was such a thing!  There’s nothing like figments of the fertile imagination, conjured up by nightmares, which we can all have at times!!

Apart from my adherence to the Demons’ AFL team, the only other demons I can identify are our personal demons, or weaknesses, which can weigh us down.  It’s a cop out to say: “The devil made me do it”,  rather than accept my own personal responsibility for doing the wrong thing, or failing to act in a positive way, at times!  Jesus’ message is a clear call to choose good over evil, and to reject the darkness of sin, and live in the light of the Gospel, as a sign for all to see.

We are at a stage early in Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus has just called the 12 apostles, and now sets out on his mission with them as disciples, ready to learn and take up the ministry of service to others, as they follow him on his unusual, non-conformist journey.   Unlike the conventional rabbis of the time, teaching in the Temple, Jesus is itinerant as he hits the road, so to speak, and prepared for the various unpredictable encounters he experiences along the way, and acts in counter-cultural ways, particularly to women, children, the afflicted and those on the fringes of his society.

It sounds scandalous and upsetting to hear Jesus speak in negative terms about his own family, brothers and sisters, and even his mother Mary, if the text is to be taken literally, particularly in a society which valued family above all else.  The point Jesus is making, however, is that family should no constrain or exclude concern for, and engagement with, those beyond the nuclear family, who respond to the call to faith.  The ultimate guide is the Spirit, and all are called to respond to that Spirit of God, which Jesus reveals, first in his own person, and then in his ongoing presence, which we acknowledge in faith.

We can’t deny the forces of evil are still out there, but our role is not to escape the real world, but to continue to transform it for the better by our engagement with it.  The talk is of forgiveness for all, whatever the transgression, but not for those who reject the person of Jesus, claiming he is controlled by evil spirits, rather than projecting the image of a loving and forgiving God of compassion and mercy. So there’s nothing to be fearful of, but rather to commit ourselves to promote this message of faith by the way we live as his disciples.

As a local illustration of living and acting on Gospel values, we had Mass with our primary school students and staff here on Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This was linked with their efforts to raise money and donate material goods for the members of the St Vincent de Paul Society members to distribute to the hidden needy in our local community.  The spirit of generosity and concern was clear, in the way they contributed a considerable amount, along with our 2 parish communities’ Winter Appeal, which enables an essential ministry of service to continue in a very practical way.  So it’s thanks to all who have made an effort to support this great work.

And finally, our young people continue to move forward in faith, through our sacramental celebrations, with around 100 being confirmed here at St Therese’s on Friday last week, and 50 or so at Our Lady of Nativity last weekend.  Thanks go to all involved there in preparation, organization and music.

john hannon                                                                         9th June 2024

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