Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Evil Possesions (a sharing based on Mk 5:1-20)

In our gospel today, we are told that the man was driven mad by an evil force which prides itself with the name of Legion. Indeed an appropriate name for such a terribly strong force—a legion—an atrocious army 6,000 strong!

I’m certain that we’ve had our own experiences of evil possessions. True, we may not entirely look like the contorted and distorted figure of Emily Rose (maybe not yet), but I’m sure we’ve had our own terrible experience of painful internal spiritual contortion and distortion. We’ve felt at some point in our lives how it is to be driven by unstoppable great evil forces beyond our strength? We feel (or at least we make ourselves believe that we are) compelled to do things we do not wish to do, and we do not do the things that we ought to do!

Such destructive spiritual legions lurking in our minds and hearts are what we often call "issues". We have experienced how it is that we have been at the mercy of our great issues. We have experienced how it to be chained to them. This is our evil possession.

God's word reminds us today that no destructive force can keep anyone from the wellness and wholeness which God offers to those who seek his help, to those who desire His mercy and love. Jesus, with his great compassion took pity on the man who was overtaken by a legion of evil spirits. He healed him and brought dignity to his being once again.

The Lord can do this, and He will do this for those who seek and accept His mercy and love. We know this profound truth from our sane and more prudent moments of our lives. What is disturbing, however is how we seemingly refuse to seek the liberating help of the Lord, or worse, just as the townspeople in the Gospel have asked Him to leave their neighborhood after seeing how powerful the Lord truly is, we seem to back track, get eaten up in the vicious cycle and say to our Lord to let us be, to just leave us alone.

Why would the townspeople not want Jesus to stay? Why do we find it so difficult to cooperate with His grace? Is it not disturbing that we know where to seek help and yet we run away from it? Perhaps the price for such real liberation from the power of evil and sin is more than what we want to pay, more than what we want to give up. We unknowingly echo the words of the unconverted Agustin, “Give me chastity, but not yet”. We rationalize and say, “Issue ko na talaga ‘yan! Sorry na lang.” (Sorry, I can't do anything with my issues.) We make ourselves believe that we really want to be free, and yet deep inside we have already made the fatalistic decision to remain imprisoned for life.

Our Lord is ready and willing to free us from anything that binds us and that keeps us from His love. That is certain. What is uncertain, my dear friends, is our willingness to part with anything and everything that might keep us from His love and saving grace?

“Lord, unbind us that we may love you wholly and walk in the freedom of Your way of life and holiness. May there be nothing which keeps us from the joy of living in Your presence. Amen.”

Of Faith and Prayer (Mk 9:14-29)

As I reflected on this morning’s gospel (Mk 9:14-29), I can’t help but go back to my own experience of prayer, specifically my own prayers of petition. As far as I could remember, prayers of petition have always been part of my prayers since I was very young, whether it be asking for high grades or asking for the healing of a loved one in pain. What is particularly striking to me now is how when I was younger, I guess when I was more innocent and less cynical, more childlike and less proud, my prayers were more passionate and desirous. Lately, I have noticed that my prayers are no longer as moving and as fervent.


It would have really been good if I could say plainly that the reason is that now I have become more spiritually indifferent than ever before. But honestly, this might not be entirely true. It seems that, as I have become older and “wiser”, I have also become too self reliant, too pragmatic, too hardheaded at times. In this way, faith has become superficial, and prayer, mechanical, worse, faith has become “prayer-less” and prayers “faith-less”.

Today’s gospel reminds us of how faith and prayer go hand in hand. They must never be divorced from one another, especially when we expect faith and prayer to strengthen and compliment each other. We see this, both in Jesus’ dismay with the disciples’ lack of faith and His concern to meet the need of this troubled epileptic boy and his anguished father. But, more clearly we see this in the Lord’s recognition of the fragility of the father’s faith and His challenge for him to pray boldly with expectant and hopeful faith. He says to him, “All things are possible to him who believes!” He says to us, "Pray and believe; believe and pray!"

That indeed was a wake up call. Not just to this father nor to the disciples who could not make the boy well. It was a wake up call for me, and I guess for everyone else slacking in prayerful faith and in faithful prayer. We simply cannot subsist with a faith that lacks prayer and a prayer that lacks faith. It leads nowhere. It brings no healing. It gives no life.

St Augustine rightfully reminds us then: “Where faith fails, prayer perishes. For who prays for that in which he does not believe? ...So then in order that we may pray, let us believe, and let us pray that this same faith by which we pray may not falter.”

Let us take this this reminder to heart as we continue with this morning’s celebration, especially as we move towards Lent. Let us approach the Lord and beg Him to help our unbelief. Let us plead to Him that he may increase our faith and trust in His saving power so that we may be given confidence and perseverance, especially in prayer, to bring His healing love and truth to those in need.