In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.  — Gospel of Mark

This Sunday, we experience Jesus at the start of his public ministry. He encounters a man with an “unclean spirit.” And Jesus expels the spirit.
    I admit it. When I hear about exorcism, I sort of check out. Blame William Peter Blatty and the exorcist stairs right outside the Georgetown campus. My alma mater. And watching the movie freshman year. Everyone who knows me knows I am subterranean in my tolerance for scary or violent movies. Zip. I only made it through because it was a sort of Rocky Horror Picture Show sort of screening, with people shouting things on cue at the screen. “Heeeeerrrressss Donnie” and down the stairs comes cinematic extra, Fr. Donald Frieze, SJ.
   I came across the following passage as I was getting ready for Sunday, and I found it helpful and illuminating:  “Progressive Christianity seldom deals with the supernatural or demonic not to mention spiritual healing and energy work.  We have exorcized the devil and Satan from our theologies, and have doubts about angels and demons. We are uncertain whether we should invest ourselves in praying for healing. Yet, there is a side of life that goes beyond reason and human control.  We know that we can be possessed by ‘powers’ beyond ourselves – addictions, mental illnesses, compulsive behaviors, and obsessional thought patterns. Even institutions can be possessed by demonic spirits, aiming at death rather than life, and advocating a faith that tolerates no dissent. As intellectually erudite as we may be, we still may find ourselves under the influence of powers that we try to explain away.  We need God to help us find a way out of the powers that possess us, individually and as communities.”
   I found that powerful. 
   What is also powerful, to me, is the question that is asked by the community at the end of the passage: What is this? A new teaching with authority.” I am looking at what I place in authority in my life in the wake of the events of the past year and my hopes for the future. And I am finding that Jesus, my teacher, is becoming more and more central an authority figure for me.
   I‘m super excited that this weekend we are welcoming Michael Campos, PhD as our homilist. Michael is a dear friend from my time at the GTU and an internationally regarded theologian. He researches at the intersection of Filipino-American diaspora, postcolonial theory, queer theory, and critical pedagogy. His great compassionate heart and clarity of intellect are among a few of the many things I admire about him. I hope you’ll be with me to welcome him to our circle this Sunday.

With gratitude for who you are in the world,


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