A Homily for the 5 Sunday (B) – February 5 , 2012

A Homily for the 5th Sunday (B) – February 5th, 2012
Fr. Joseph T. Nolan
Never mind the gloomy passage from Job; the gospel is really good news. We are
privileged to hear an episode that gives an unforgettable picture of Jesus. Busy, tired,
harassed, worn out from healing people (remember that demons were their names for
germs, microbes, illnesses), finally seeking out a place to be by himself and to pray. Then
that wonderful exchange of remarks with Peter: “The whole world is looking for you!”
And Jesus’ answer, “Then let’s go. This is what I came for, to proclaim the good news.”
He still comes – to teach us how to live. To overcome evil with good.
The portraits of Jesus by great artists, even Rembrandt, are guesswork. This gospel is the
closest we will get to Jesus both human and divine. In need of rest and time by himself, to
commune with God.
In a long life as a priest I have been asked only once to do quite literally what he did,
drive out demons, what they call an exorcism. But first I want to tell you that I don’t
believe in demons – I believe in evil, overcome by prayer and love. Don’t go with what
those bad movies told you about exorcism. The request that came to me was really a
lovable, almost laughable situation. It involved a three-year-old boy; I had baptized him
and his twin sister in Puerto Rico. His mother told me that he was upset, night after night
in his crib, complaining that bad people were up there, over his head, trying to hurt him.
She thought the worst and even brought in a crucifix, which promptly made him scream.
She didn’t use the word “exorcism” but that’s what she wanted and told me to be sure to
bring holy water. Actually I forgot it but then told her, “Look, I make holy water, just
give me a bottle.” I may have sprinkled him and the room but mostly I just held him, told
him there were no bad people but just mom and dad and Gabriella and me – and we all
loved him. Then the Lord’s Prayer, which says, “Deliver us from evil.” Plus the Hail
Mary, because she is his mother, too.
Then a blessing, and all done. But one thing more: I wanted to find a store that sold a
resurrection crucifix. You may know what I mean: Jesus is royally vested, reigning from
the cross, serene in his victory over death. I found two small ones and now they are over
the beds of Xavier and his twin sister, Gabriella. Christus Rex. King of Glory.
Xavier’s bad dream does raise the question of evil, spelled out in such misery by Job.
We should read the whole book of Job, skipping the windy speeches by his so-called
friends. It begins as comedy and then moves to high poetry when the character called
God speaks. It deals with the greatest of all problems, the suffering of the innocent, and
the supposed answer from God is not conclusive, rather a hint. He points to the mystery
of creation and says, “You cannot explain that but you accept it. You have to do the same
with life.” We do – some days.
I have an explanation of evil which I have shared before: creation is necessarily finite,
limited, and when it evolved into sentient creatures, we hurt and die. Then there are three
answers: one is the compassion, really the love; we show each other in easing and in
many cases curing the pain. The second answer is Resurrection: we are promised a new
creation. The third answer is Incarnation: the Creator God, knowing the limitations of our
life and our world, decided to join us and bear it with us. Yes, and in the end overcome its
greatest limitation, which is death.
I have to warn you that if you bring me your children who have had bad dreams, a
resurrection crucifix is difficult to find.