Date: Sunday, January 28, 2018
In Wednesday’s Buffalo News I caught Mr. Wilson looking out the window in Dennis the Menace. Mrs. Wilson comments: “What’s bothering you George? Dennis isn’t even here.” Mr. Wilson replies: “That’s just it…He’s probably on his way right now.” Mr. Wilson is anxious!
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” We must place the remarks of St. Paul on the benefits of being married or unmarried in context of his expectation of the Lord’s coming again, expressed in the verse immediately preceding our text: “For the world in its present form is passing away.” The things of the present age to which people cling, the world even with its grandeur and loveliness, are only a glimpse and a beginning of the glory of the age to come. For St. Paul, institutions like marriage, beings single, governments and even slavery (accepted in the ancient world) are provisional. Although St. Paul begins by saying he would like the Church at Corinth to be free of anxiety, he goes on to admit that every station or circumstance of life (being married, unmarried, male or female, slave or free, Jewish or Gentile) has its problems and challenges. But worries can distract us from the mystery of God being with us and the coming of Christ. When Pope John Paul II was elected Pope, he appealed to the world: “Be not afraid!” This is the fundamental teaching of Christ and the Church: “Be not afraid!”
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus comes to Capernaum and enters a synagogue and teaches. He speaks with authority. A man with an unclean spirit cries out. Jesus rebukes the demon within the man: “Quiet! Come out of him!” Rather than expelling the man Jesus expels the demon. People are amazed at the authority of Jesus’ teaching and the power of his prophetic word. Could Jesus be the prophet that Moses promised the Hebrews in the desert that God will raise up from their own kin?
There are moments when we are consumed with anxiety often petty stuff when we need to hear Jesus say to the worries rampant in our hearts and minds: “Be quiet!” Recently, in Honolulu, a priest was distributing Holy Communion. A deacon interrupted him with a message on his cell phone of an emergency missal alert. Fr. Mark Gantley continued giving out Holy Communion and ended Mass without a closing hymn. Parishioners were aware of something wrong and thought perhaps the Bishop had died. But then the Bishop, Larry Silva, walked into the Chapel in his T-shirt to explain the alert and fear of an attack. He then offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation through general absolution without individual confession of sins that is permitted in exceptional cases of soldiers going into battle or an airplane crashing. In other words they simply examined their consciences, expressed their sorrow, prayed and were absolved – putting the state of their souls before their physical safety. Some were visibly upset. One person was crying. But after the words of absolution there was an incredible calming for everyone. “In that moment, when you really don’t know (if you are going to die) your heart reaches out for forgiveness.” Afterwards the Bishop ushered them in to breakfast. 38 minutes later they received another alert: “all clear.”
When we are consumed with anxiety may we hear the powerful and healing words of Jesus: “Quiet. Come out.” Released from the burden of our worry we become aware of God being with us in Jesus Christ.