Reflection for Sunday – February 4, 2024

Readings: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39 
Preacher: Sr. Karen Dietz

I know a woman in her mid-fifties who has been surrounded by demons and was just recently able to drive them away. Years ago, she was married and together they have two children.

During their marriage, they struggled to make ends meet. There were many phone calls to family to assist with rent, utilities, and phone. It got so that when the phone rang and the display showed this woman’s name, her family members were loathe to answer. And most times when the family came to their aid, it was  for the sake of the young children. The relationship between the woman and her family became strained to the point of breaking. If we fast forward to today, this woman has divorced her husband and is creating a life for herself.

She is thriving. Last week she learned that her ex-husband asked his daughter for money to pay essential bills. She is a college senior and barely making ends meet herself. The woman was angry and anxious to help her daughter see that this was a never-ending situation. The only way to stop the “ask” was to say no. Upon hearing the story, the woman’s family had to take a second look at their behavior and attitude toward her. Could it be that all this time it was the husband who was irresponsible?

Mark, the Gospel writer, talks often of Jesus driving out demons. This activity goes hand-in-hand with healing the sick. Later in the Gospel Jesus names the demons before driving them out. He knows them as they know him. I have been thinking a lot about this in relation to my story. Naming the demons is an essential step to healing and wholeness. If this woman’s family had been able to name the demon in her household as the husband, might they have had a different response and attitude toward her?

Of course, they cannot go backwards. However, they can go forward with a fresh look at one another. It’s possible to heal past wounds of separation and mistrust. And we know that is not as cut and dry as it might seem. Certainly, she was complicit by giving in to her husband and asking for help. What did that cost her? Could a different kind of support from family and friends have helped her to break free earlier and with less pain? We will never know. All they can do is embrace one another now with fresh eyes and an open heart.

Preaching, healing, and driving out demons was the work of Jesus and the disciples. He clearly says that this is the reason he has come. Jesus forbids the demons to speak because they recognize him.

What are the demons active in your life? Last week Joan Sobala called out some of them—racism, addiction, violence, etc. I am thinking about those demons that rest inside of each of us—prejudice, judgment, separation, and misjudgment. How often do we make decisions based on incorrect or insufficient information? Do we separate ourselves from those we love based on lies? Do we judge others—the poor, the homeless, the refugees too quickly?

We are called to follow the way of Jesus, preaching, healing, and driving out demons. Healing and wholeness cannot happen unless we know and understand the whole picture. Learning about another takes time and energy. It does not happen overnight or with a bit of information. It requires establishing a relationship with another, sharing stories.

The first part of today’s Gospel points us to the real purpose of any preaching, healing, or driving out of demons we might do. Peter’s mother-in-law has fallen ill and immediately after Jesus offers a healing touch, she gets up and begins to serve them. We offer healing so that the other person can be restored for the sake of mission, for the sake of bringing the Gospel to others.

For people of faith, this is so important to keep in mind. And it ought to motivate us to pray for an openness to the Spirit, even when it seems things will never change. The truth of any given situation is not always clear. The demons we think are present may be something or someone else entirely, as was experienced with the woman in my story.

Had her family not prayed to stay attentive to the Spirit, they might not have been open to the truth of her life, they might never have known the true demons in her life. By being open, they had the opportunity to deepen and be changed by their relationship. Disciples that we are, we are both healers and in need of healing. I pray for the insight to correctly name the demons in my path so that I can pray to have them driven out. And I pray for forgiveness for the times I have misjudged or misunderstood those who I believed were acting from a place where demons reigned.

Sr. Karen Dietz, SSJ
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