This past Sunday I preached in a small town about 40 minutes away. I also preached at the 7:00 pm Mass in Dulce Nombre. I wasn’t going to share this except that as Padre German approached the altar to offer the gifts he whispered to me, “Hablaste del corazón” – “You spoke from the heart.” Here are some notes – in English – from my homilies.
I approach preaching today with trepidation. The first reading (Deuteronomy 18: 15-200 has a message for all of us who preach.
“…if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.”
Am I preaching me? Or am I transparent – allowing the message of Jesus and the Reign of God to come through? Do the people hear God or just my words.
There are so many people who speak in the name of God but are held in the embrace of the powers of this world, the economy, political parties, racist ideologies. Their preaching serves not God, but an idol.
The Gospel (Mark 1: 21-28), on the other hand, recalls Jesus speaking, preaching, in the synagogue. The people are amazed. We don’t know what he said, but his very manner of preaching moved people.
There was a coherence between what he said and who he was. He, the Son of God made flesh, lived the Reign of God and made it present. Thomas Merton once wrote, “The saint preaches sermons by the way he walks and talks, the way he picks up things and holds them in his hand.” I image that is what the people saw in Jesus – holiness made present in living form. He is truth and love made flesh. His words spring from his heart.
But then something happens in the synagogue. A man tormented by an unclean spirit begins to shout. The unclean spirit cannot take the truth and the love that is there present before him.
The words of Jesus threaten this spirit who cries out: “Have you come to destroy us?”
Jesus responds simply: “Be quiet. Get out of him!”
The words of Jesus are words that generate hope and heal wounds. They are words that give life. The spirit leaves, convulsing the man and making a racket. The convulsion within the man is brought out into the open and the man is healed.
But what strikes me about this reading is that the people are amazed at the preaching of Jesus and are “amazed” that unclean spirits obey him. The Spanish lectionary states that “todos quedaron estupefactos” – all were stupefied (or thunderstruck).
How often do we come into church, awaiting a boring sermon and not expecting anything new, anything that will shake us up.
But with Jesus, all is wonder.
Would that we lived with a sense of wonder, a sense of letting ourselves be surprised by the marvels around us – the marvel of Word and Eucharist in church, the marvels of love between spouses and among parents and children. But all too often our hearts, as well as our eyes and ears are closed to the marvels, the wonders around us – the wonders of creation, the wonders of people caring for the sick and elderly, the wonders of people working hard and with a spirit of joy.
And so I pray that God will open our eyes and ears, our minds and hearts so that we may let ourselves be thunderstruck by the marvels God shows us every moment of every day.
With gratitude for the commentaries of José Antonio Pagola: