Sybil 1997

Gospel text

Mark 1: 21-28

21 Jesus make his way (with his first disciples) to the city of Capernaum. On the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22 People were upset by his teaching because he taught them out of his own authority, and not in the manner of Bible scholars. 23 For example, there was in the synagogue a man with a disturbed mind who began to scream, 24 "What are you doing here, Jesus the Nazarene?" Have you come to exterminate us? I know who you are: you are inhabited by God.

25 Jesus rebuked him saying, "Shut up and free this man!" 26 Then, after convulsive movements and great screams, the disturbed spirit disappeared from him. 27 Everyone was in shock and questioned each other: "What does all this mean?" This is a totally new teaching given from his own authority. And this authority is exercised even on disturbed minds, and these submit themselves". 28 Immediately his fame spread throughout the whole region of Galilee.


Inside our own prison

Gospel commentary - Homily

Let's talk about demons

Most recently in the newspapers, there was a report on a 70-year-old priest arrested for pedophilia in the Montreal area. The journalist talked about his face ravaged by sadness, his body sagging. I said to myself: his demons have caught him and made him no longer himself! It's so sad!

In this context, the Gospel narrative in which Mark presents Jesus' authority over a man possessed of a deranged mind, or to use a more modern expression, "a mind that is not really him," triggers a question in my mind: where does such a liberation really take place? I say this because I have my own "demons". Either these demons come from certain atavisms or from my own personal story, it does not matter, they alienate me of myself and deprive others of what I have better. I have certain fears that paralyze me, I have my obsessions, my rages, my resentment, my paranoid attitudes, my intellectual laziness, my refusals of transparency and honesty, my perversions of authentic desires, my morbid fixations, my flight from reality, and so on, and God knows that the fight is arduous. But what did Marc exactly understand and try to convey to me by his account of exorcism? What is the magic formula that brings liberation?

Reading the story carefully, I realize that there is no magic formula. Jesus teaches, but one says that his teaching is not like that of law specialists who can only say what is "correct" or "not correct", without changing anything in humans. However, in Mark's Gospel I search in vain for the content of this teaching. In fact, the content of his teaching is his very life: Jesus teaches what he lives. And I note very clearly that the Jesus presented by Mark is above all a man of action, and that the story of today is inserted in a set of 24 hours where his agenda is full. Could it be that this very life has a liberating effect?

In my experience, I have often noticed that authentic, transparent people sometimes create discomfort in others, as if true beings unmasked by their very existence the hypocrites, the superficial people, the liars: the fire and the water are incompatible. I will forever remember that day when, having proudly recounted some of my activities, someone looked at me for a long time and stared into my eyes and simply and softly said, "I do not see you there at all" . I felt stunned and demolished, as if someone had spotted my game, had perceived that I was playing a role. But at the same time, I was walking to find out who I really was. In our story, Jesus does not even need to take the initiative, the evil spirit unmasks himself: "What are you doing here, Jesus of Nazareth"? Have you come to exterminate us? I know who you are: you are inhabited by God."

However, why then ask for silence ("Shut up!") when the forces of evil reveal the person of Jesus. Of course, I know that in Mark's plan we can not understand the true meaning of the messianity of Jesus if we do not understand the cross, and we will not be able to speak openly of Jesus as messiah until the shadow of his suffering and of his death will be near. But does not this statement have a significance that goes beyond the personal history of Jesus?

By pointing to the future and the cross, the instruction of silence rejects precisely the liberation by magic. There are liberations, yes, but sometimes in the manner of this person with AIDS, met a while ago, admitting to have been "on the party" for several years, until the day when AIDS has caught up, where he saw his friends die, where he accompanied his "spouse" home in his last moments. With death deferred, thanks to medication, surprised to be alive again every morning after 10 years, here he is with a new identity, participating in a meeting of parents for the first forgiveness of his nephew whose father committed suicide, never hesitating to go to the bedside of a patient or a dying person, if desired. Now he can tell who he really is. Now he can teach his life. Its authenticity can now disturb all those who hide behind masks. But the price to get there was very high.

This 70 year old priest, I talked earlier, if he is really responsible for the acts of which he is accused, will he find in his social death his liberation? I do not know, I wish him. Personally, I would like to make this celebration around this exorcism story a moment of truth, where I look at myself openly, where I accept to listen to all these "demons" who moan in me so much they do not want to go out, where I pray the Jesus of Mark to hasten this day that will allow me to say in front of my brothers and sisters, before my children, before my neighbors, in front of my co-workers: here's what I really am, now I'm only to teach my life.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 1999