One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

February 23, 2009

For Monday of the Seventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Mark 9:14-29

“This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Some ancient manuscripts of the Gospel add “fasting”— that this kind of unclean spirit can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.
The Gospel does not show the Lord praying or fasting to throw out this unclean spirit.
Rather, the Lord spoke a command casting out the unclean spirit.
Had not the disciples themselves just been trying to drive it out?
If their failure was because of a lack of prayer, when did Jesus pray in driving out the unclean spirit?
There is one place in the Gospel where we see Jesus fasting, praying, and overcoming an unclean spirit.
It was the time of his forty days in the wilderness.
Those forty days of prayer came right after history’s first public intervention of the entire Divine Trinity in sight and sound: the Baptism of God the Son— when the voice of God the Father cracked the heavens and let out a sign of God the Holy Spirit over the head of God the Son.
Then, as the strong Greek language of this particular Gospel tells it [Mk. 1:12], the Holy Spirit ekbállei— throws, drives, shoots, casts, tosses, flings, hurls, or launches Jesus out into the wilderness where he fasts, prays, and overcomes the unclean spirit.
History’s second intervention of the entire Divine Trinity in sight and sound happened right before today’s Gospel.
On a high mountain, Peter, James, and John saw the flesh and blood Son of God and his earthly clothes give off an unworldly dazzling white light.
They saw the cloud of God the Spirit overshadow them.
They heard the voice of God the Father command: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!”
Now, today in the Gospel, his followers hear the Son of God command a devil to leave a boy; and they hear the Son of God tell them the power for this exorcism is the power of prayer.
Immediately following an intervention of the Divine Trinity in sight and sound and flesh and blood, today’s exorcism has a most dramatic, indeed, a supernatural setting.
The followers of Jesus cannot throw, drive, toss, or cast out at least this one kind of devil.
They must pray for God to intervene.
Furthermore, if other ancient manuscripts of the Gospel are correct, then the followers of Jesus must also fast when asking God to intervene.
To fast is to make oneself physically weak and vulnerable.
As a companion of prayer, fasting tells us the strength and victory we need are in God himself.
Today’s Gospel also reminds us there are unclean spirits stronger than ourselves, and against whom we have no victory without God.
Not to fast, not to pray, not to believe, and not to rely on the intervention of God’s driving Spirit— is to invite from Jesus the same scolding he gave his followers today.
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”
Not to fast, not to pray, not to believe, and not to rely on God the Spirit— is to leave ourselves open to the victory of evil.

That God Be Glorified in All


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