Date: Sunday, January 31, 2021
Alfred Hitchcock was a noted director of movies that frightened audiences – like me! Mel Brooks is a director, actor and comedian who did a tribute to the thrill master, a takeoff, titled “High Anxiety.” “High Anxiety” succinctly describes this past year. Back in January we started hearing of a mysterious and deadly virus, a coronavirus, in China, then Italy and spreading to the U.S.A. Covid-19 continues to be an existential threat. We are conscious of the heroic sacrifice of those providing essential services. We are mindful of the loss of life and suffering. We are trying to calculate the enormous toll --physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and economically. We shift from mental fatigue to high anxiety. We are longing for a word of hope and healing.
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” Is it possible? We must place the remarks of Paul on the benefits and drawbacks of being married and unmarried in the context of his and the Church at Corinth’s expectation of the Lord’s coming. “For the world in its present form is passing away.” Things people cling to, including its grandeur and loveliness, are passing away. For St. Paul, institutions like marriage, being single, governments and even slavery (accepted in the ancient world) are provisional. Although Paul writes that he would like the faith community to be free of anxiety, he goes on to admit that every station or circumstance of life (being married, single, male, female, slave or free, Jew, or Gentile) has problems, challenges, and distractions. But all are called to be devoted in Christ and dedicated to God’s coming Kingdom.
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. There are other “healers” or exorcists who use elaborate incantations, spells, and magic rites but Jesus calms the man and dismisses the evil with the authority of his spoken word.
There is certainly no magic wand or magic word getting through a pandemic. We are more hopeful with the availability of vaccines, but we are cautioned about new variants and mutations that may be more contagious and deadly. Will we come to live with the coronavirus realizing it will be with us to some degree as a danger to our way of life? During incredibly challenging times we come to acknowledge our fears and anxieties, we pray for the resolve and courage to do our best and we pray for the grace to keep everything in perspective. We are not alone. God is with us. Just to prayerfully say the name “Jesus” will calm our troubles hearts. “Jesus” means “God saves.”