The Unclean Spirit

Jesus Confronting the Unclean Spirit. James Tissot

Jesus begins his ministry, according to Mark’s Gospel, in the synagogue at Capernaum facing someone with an “unclean spirit.” You would expect a synagogue to be a quiet, orderly place, but this day it’s a place of shouting and confusion. Like the messy world we live in today.

What’s a unclean spirit anyway? Here’s an explanation from a commentary  on Mark’s gospel by John R. Donahue, SJ, and Daniel Harrington, SJ.

“In this context ‘unclean’ (akatharton) primarily connotes not a moral (even less a sexual) fault), but something opposed to the “holy.” In the command of the Old Testament to be holy (Leviticus 11,44) it implies life, wholeness and completeness,( Leviticus 21, 17-21) whereas uncleanness implies something that should not be, something out of place ( e.g. soil in a farmer’s field is productive, while in a house it’s dirt). The opposite of the realm of the holy is the demonic, hence the spirits there are “unclean”. Physical defects or psychological aberrations can make a person “unclean”in a sense of incomplete, imperfect and out of order.”(The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina, Liturgical Press 2002 page 80.)

Jesus did not engage primarily the intellectual establishment or the religious establishment when he came. He engaged the chaotic world of the “unclean spirits.” He set up a “field hospital” to use a phrase dear to Pope Francis. That’s the messy, scary world we live in.

Just think of the poor man in the tombs further on in Mark’s gospel, chained and hurting himself. Who wants to deal with him? But Jesus gives his disciples “authority” over unclean spirits. His followers have the power to take them on, to deal with the “messy” world they belong to.

And when they’re done? They’re never done. That’s the world we live in..

4 thoughts on “The Unclean Spirit

  1. Lynda Regan

    We all go to our Meetings this morning, but– thanks to our Shepherd who leads us– we Christians need never go anyplace alone. The Church, however– in her timidity, and in her desire to “look good” before the World– is failing the Faithful in almost every way that matters.

    Currently, in my Diocese (Pittsburgh), Parishes are “merging,” with the understanding that many Worship sites will soon close. Meanwhile, on an almost daily basis, another Ordained Minister of the Gospel is accused, suspended, arrested or sentenced to Prison. Yesterday it was a local Deacon. The Bishop tells us (and the Victims) that he is “sorry,” but how does he show it? Oh, yes, another “Prayer Service” (with photo op, of course, for the local News!). “Fasting on Ember Days. . . .” (That’s one way to change the subject!) But still he persists in denying his own responsibility, and arguing against extending the Statute of Limitations backwards to allow those Victims their day in Court. Whatever became of our guiding Principle: Justice?

    The World, even though it didn’t ever exactly believe, now shakes it’s head in disbelief that the Church has come to this. The Faithful wonder, in shock, grief and disgust: “To whom shall we go?” During such dark times shouldn’t an Institution built on the Witness of the Apostles, and the Faith of the Martyrs, be OPENING Churches instead of closing them? Apparently not when Money and Image are more important than clearing a path for the Holy Spirit to work.

    Without the Trust of Catholics, or the Good Will of the greater Community, how can even basic Ministry continue? Parents are no longer allowing their Children to be alone with Priests, neither are they taking them to Confession, nor indeed are they going themselves. Parishioners refuse to write checks for Diocesan Charities until the complicit Bishops resign, thus are the Poor further deprived. Many Bishops have uncaringly squandered their Authority on public relations concerns, and legal self-interest. Such men have lost all ability to Teach and Lead a Diocese. The Pope remains silent while we are torn apart, from top to bottom, like the Curtain in the Temple.

    As Passionists, we are called to “Preach Christ Crucified,” but who will listen to us? Without Sweet Justice, shall we all go astray, “like sheep without a Shepherd?” The only Leader the Catholic Church cannot do without is Jesus Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Harry Warren

    Fr Victor. I am praying for you and your community as you go to your meeting. I am sure God will continue to show you all your way. Blessings, Harry

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cenaclemary12

    Meetings go on and on but how much listening takes place? Only those with open hearts will hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit. Your concerns,Linda, are genuine. Yes Church matters in our living faith and WE are the church of Jesus who companions us on the way.

    Liked by 1 person

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