Tuesday, September 2, 2014

At Capernaum

We can imagine a typical Sabbath in the synagogue at Capernaum- people gathering, greeting one another; small groups of men in conversation, perhaps a few women; younger men entering and giving each other a nod. And then they all notice the possessed man coming in. Weariness, some irritation. “Why does his family even let him come here?” The younger men are grinning at one another, a couple of winks, as they recall a recent Sabbath when this guy blurted out an embarrassing truth about one of the elders. They loved that. This ought to be good, they think. What he will come out with today? Then Jesus enters. Some recognize him too. He sits with them, speaks a word, and teaches them simply, clearly, lovingly- not from on high but as friend and brother. For many this is a moment of astonishment as they hear his word of truth and feel their hearts broken open. They close their eyes, their heads lowered. Then it happens, you-know-who starts up: “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.” Now there’s even more astonishment. This crazy man has uttered blasphemy on the Sabbath; even though, truth be told, some of them have been thinking the very same thing as Jesus was speaking. “Could he be the One?”

Imagine the gall of that demon shouting out Jesus’ name- for speaking a name is to have power over the other. He blurts out Jesus’ name, as if to pick a fight with him. But Jesus sees into the heart. He knows it’s the demon speaking, not the man. And Jesus does not kowtow or spar with demons. He simply says, “Quiet.” “Stop. Enough. Come out of him; leave him alone. Get out of here. Be gone. Demons do not know me. The poor, the sick, the lost, little ones, they know who I am. They may call upon my name for I have come for them.” 

Imagine this most tender and most efficacious compassion of Jesus. He speaks and the evil spirit knows he’s done for. And as once Jesus spoke to the turbulent Sea of Galilee, to its crashing waves and the raging winds above, “Quiet. Be still,” so now he rebukes the demon who has taken this man’s voice away. “Be still and know that I am God.” Jesus gives him back his voice, his freedom, gives him back to himself, to his family, to his community.

We can only wonder what took place after his convulsion on the floor of the synagogue. What did freedom and fluency feel like? Did he praise God in a loud voice? Did he bow down and worship Jesus as Lord, like so many others who were cured? How did freedom change him? 

Reflection on this morning's Gospel- Luke 4.31-37.