· The meditation ·
In the Gospel according to Mark this episode of the healing of a little boy possessed by a devil or, as it is thought, affected by epilepsy, is set between two announcements of Jesus’ Passion: indeed, to the words about Elijah’s return which precede this text Mark adds a few other words about the Passion of the Son of man (cf. 9:12), which frame those that follow in the second announcement of the Passion (cf. 9:30-32). This text therefore needs to be read in the light of the Paschal mystery, in the light of the Passion, of that descent into the darkness of suffering and death which Jesus went to meet but which did not have the last word over him. This has been anticipated and announced by the episode of the Transfiguration of Jesus by the Father which immediately precedes our text; it is the announcement and first fruits of the new life of the Risen One (cf. 9:9-10), and, with him, of every human creature.
In this season of grace which is Lent the light of the Resurrection guides and orientates the journey of believers, confers on them meaning and the criterion of discernment, founds the hope of Christians and supports and encourages them in the fight against evil.
In fact, this Gospel passage proclaims to us that there is no existential devastation in which the Light of the Resurrection is not already present and active. It may be like a faint glimmer at the bottom of the abyss of darkness, but in itself has the strength, the “power” or “possibility” – this is the language connected with the root of dynamis, “power”, which recurs in verses 22-23 – which comes from the new life now present and active in the Crucified and Risen Jesus. This is why Jesus says that “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (v. 29): for prayer is the openness and acceptance of a life and vital force which human beings cannot give to themselves but can only receive from God.
Forces of evil exist, like the one which takes possession of this boy, which devastate the lives of men and women because they are stronger than the capacity of reason to dominate them and than the human will to contain them. Human beings sometimes feel they are possessed, inhabited and driven by negative forces to which they feel they have fallen prey, whose origin they do not know and which induce them to do evil and to destroy lives, including their own. Human beings experience within themselves forces stronger than them which they do not feel able to resist. The Gospel does not deny this nor does it tell us why it happens. It only brings the Good News that in front of those who present themselves as strong, with a strength even devastating in human lives, the Lord Jesus places himself as one who is stronger, capable of imprisoning whatever has taken possession of the person and removing its prey from it (cf. Mk 3:27).
Mark therefore says that “Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose”: Jesus grasps, or takes, (verb krateo) his hand, with a gesture that indicates his taking possession, his definitive victory over evil and his power over death. And then there are two verbs which in the Gospels indicate resurrection: he “lifted him up” (verb egheiro, cf. Mk 16:6) and the boy “arose” (verb anistemi, cf. Mk 16:9).
However, there was no triumphalism on the Christians’ part, both because death and evil are still active in history, and because, Mark tells us, in the face of this glad announcement the disciples themselves were disbelieving (cf. v. 19) and inadequate (cf. vv. 28-29), as they were to be in the face of the announcement of Jesus’ Resurrection (cf. Mk 16:8). And yet, aware of their own disbelief, they were called to ask forthat faith which is openness to the action of God with whom “nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:37) and who therefore makes “All things […] possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23), and thus also possible to proclaim to every human creature the good news of the Resurrection (cf. Mk 16:15).
The Sisters of Bose
St. Peter’s Square
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