Friday, September 22, 2006

Luke 8: 1 - 3

1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,
2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag'dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out...

Recently, I had lunch with one of our parish priests at a well-known buffet. Fr. William is Nigerian and his skin is beautiful and very dark- almost as dark as his black shirt and pants. His white collar in contrast looks like a beacon from yards away and there is no mistaking him for a delivery guy or a construction worker. As we clutched our melamine dinner plates and moved bovinely toward the buffet tables, smiling and talking, in front of us was a young mother herding 3 rambunctious blond-headed boys, the youngest of which was no more than 3 years old and had the unfortunate name "Evil".

"No, Evil! This way!" the mother barked, as the boy began to wander away from the trough. She poked him for emphasis. Immediately I thought of that grand 70's stunt guy, Evil Kinevel and imagined she was a fan or perhaps a relative. "Hold your plate UP, Evil!" the mother yelled, exasperated, as the food she had been lopping onto his plate slid off and onto the floor. Evil grinned at us, showing two missing front teeth. Upon noticing Fr. William, his mother's eyes opened wide in suprise. She looked at us apologetically and said, "His name isn't really Evil. It's Levi. But sometimes I wonder if I just spelled it wrong."

I wonder about those seven demons that were cast out of Mary Magdalene. Catholic tradition groups her with the woman who sat at Christ's feet and wept in repentance, washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. She had been a prostitute and apparently well-known. To me, Mary Magdalen is representative of each one of us. We whore ourselves out to the world and in exchange for it's goods we pledge ourselves to it, at least for an interval of time. We make all kinds of "deals with the devil". Along with this, we practice greed, gluttony, lust, envy, anger, sloth and pride. When these things no longer satisfy or, as in Mary's case, when we come face-to-face with Christ and experience a true conversion, we also come face-to-face with our own sinfulness and thus repentance.

Mary's demons were the demons that afflict every soul, the passions that throughout the ages the great saints have extolled us to master in order to possess the Kingdom. It follows that if indeed the Kingdom of Heaven is within us and we are to seek it first and know that all things will then be added unto us that we begin our work in releasing these seven demons and casting them out, purging ourselves of the weight of the world. This is hard work and cannot be done without Christ, who strengthens us and through Whom we can do all things. Basically, it starts with us saying "Yes, Lord". It is also a continuous process and not a destination for as long as we are human we are constantly in battle against ourselves and the spirit of the world which is contrary to and works against the Holy Spirit.


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