Skip to main content
Let's live and transmit the Gospel!

The authority of a witness

By 27 January, 2018January 3rd, 2023No Comments
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By F. Luis Casasus, General Superior of idente missionaries
Commentary on the Sunday Gospel of 28-1-2018, IV Sunday in Ordinary Time (Book of Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Saint Mark 1:21-28)

1. What does this gospel reading have to do with me? Jesus is casting out demons, the first disciples were granted the power to drive out demons and to rebuke the power of the devil in the name of Christ. Am I able to cast out demons? Or was this a gift just for those first followers of Jesus? The question is then if we today have power and authority over demons in the same way the Twelve did.

Most of all, do I believe that this is a relevant and key dimension of my apostolic life? Some of us would immediately think in a simple and simplistic way that we are talking about exorcisms, demonic possessions or demonomania (a mental illness). But the action of the devil is usually very subtle, not spectacular and therein lies his strength, his ability to deceive us, lurking in the depths of our psyche.

The unclean spirit, which had overtaken a poor man, cries out when he sees Jesus: Have you come to destroy us? (not just to destroy me). He wants the man to believe that he cannot survive without him, he wants to connect the man to sin and evil, as if they cannot be separated, and to convince him that Jesus exists to destroy both sin and man alike. The devil is pointing towards the center of our being: we are defined by a unitive character, and he pushes us to believe that I cannot live without my sins, without my favorite activities, without my reputation…This is a perverted use of our unitive nature.

This is something we all have personal experience with. The traces of the activity of the devil can be summarized in a single word: lying. But he does not need lying with words he just casts darkness, “black light” into our actions.

Why do we say that the devil is an experienced liar, the prince of darkness? Because he is taking advantage of something real: my defects, my weaknesses and my sins…even my virtues and he manipulates it, presenting these facts before my eyes as too big or too insignificant and negligible to deal with it. He is so efficient that leads me to believe and to say that all this is “part of me”, and in this way he manages to identify with us and to identify us with himself. A sinister masterstroke.

Of course, many people, including a great deal of believers, prefer to interpret in different ways our most persistent and significant moral difficulties, dominant defect and temptations; they content themselves with a psychological understanding of our moral life, but they miss an important factor: it is essential to know the adversary, because he has a definite personality. His intention is to separate us from God and our brothers and sisters.

The devil tries to separate you by isolating you, telling you your temptation is unique, this is not true: 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Driving out demons means to destroy slavery and sin. In gospel text, the demon could not withstand the presence of Christ. But this happens today when we reflect some aspect of Jesus’ life, when Jesus’ presence in our lives becomes clear and unequivocal, in spite of our weakness…or rather thanks to it. An innocent life is a good example of this spiritual power. Here is a touching anecdote to illustrate this truth:

Author Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was: a four-year-old child, whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy just said: Nothing, I just helped him cry.

2. He teaches with authority. This is what people said at Jesus’ teaching.

So what makes the difference between one teacher and another, between a true apostle and a fake one is the question of authority. What is the authority of a witness to Christ? Primarily, his experience of our Heavenly Father’s mercy. Jesus shared the love of His Father for humanity, His compassion for them, especially those who suffered from sickness, bondage and oppression. The works of Jesus, His healing miracles, deliverance and eating and drinking with sinners were meant to demonstrate the power of His Father’s love.

On our part, when we rise after we have sinned and we accept the fresh opportunity to do some good that God gives to us, will show that we have a personal experience of God. This is not a second hand experience. Perhaps we cannot perform certain miracles, not even practical and supporting actions for our neighbors, but this testimony, to raise from our wretchedness and get ready again for a new walk behind Him, is a proof of His presence in our lives.

The merciful and permanent forgiveness of God allows you to see challenges as an opportunity to manifest God, to become a living image of God himself. One of these challenges is the multifaceted poverty of our spirit or perhaps even our material poverty:

St. Theresa of Calcutta visited a poor widow with some rice and beans. She and her three children were living in abject poverty and had had nothing to eat for three days. As soon as she received the rice and beans, she took a part of it and ran towards a hut. At her return, Mother asked her: Where did you go? There is an old man, a Muslim, who lives in that hut. He has nobody. He has had nothing to eat for several days. I wanted to share some of our blessings with him, she replied. I have learned the heart and mind of Jesus from that poor widow’s action, Mother wrote in her book.

Remember the man who was blind from birth, and Jesus healed him. The Pharisees summoned the man born blind, and questioned him, and hurled insults at him. So he said: Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from god, he could do nothing. Though the Holy Spirit was not sent yet, he was touched by Jesus and what he witnessed he could not deny. He could not help but witness, and God gave him strength. We will need strength to witness, but the Holy Spirit will give us everything we need. The Holy Spirit will illuminate our minds, he will console our hearts, he will show us the things of God, so then it will be hard to deny God. Just like the blind man. He could not say I don’t know who healed me, because his eyes were open and definitely Jesus healed him.

We have the authority of becoming his witnesses each time we welcome and embrace his mercy and his forgiveness: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:5,8).