First reading: 1 Sam. 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15); Ps. 138
Alternate: Gen. 3:8-15; Ps. 130
2 Cor. 4:13-5:1 • Mark 3:20-35
The Fathers called it the Protoevangelium, the first whisper of the Gospel. It was spoken on a day when all was lost. Adam and Eve had broken the world’s only commandment, cast off God’s righteous rule. The perfect harmony of the seventh day is shattered. Once God’s familiar friends, now they cower in fear from his face. This is the day of the power of darkness, when Satan seems to have triumphed. But even on this day, God is not finished.
The Gospel is spoken. It comes even before the sentence of death, before the brokenness of our bond is fully revealed. In the garden that day, there are lies and accusations on human lips, fear and despair in human hearts. But from God there is a promise. Even through the smoke of the flaming sword that bars our way to the tree of life, there is a promise that one day the Redeemer will come. “With the Lord there is mercy,” the Psalmist remembers. “With him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins” (130:6,7).
The new Adam has arrived, Mark’s Gospel proclaims. Jesus has come to crush the serpent’s head. There is no negotiation. This is a fight to the bitter end, an impassioned assault. Casting out demons, he stakes the frontiers of his kingdom. He sets free the devil’s captives, begins his reign in the souls of men. “He binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.” Jesus may be establishing a kingdom, but there is no regal reserve in his demeanor. The holy bandit has come to despoil the prince of darkness. In Newman’s words, “When all was sin and shame, a second Adam to the fight, and to the rescue came.”
It is, though, as St. Paul would have it, not just a battle against “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” but a struggle “against flesh and blood.” His own flesh and blood have turned against the great Redeemer. His family, the religious authorities: God had made these bonds sacred in the beginning. But here too, as in the garden, there is hostility, anger, shame, and fear.
And so the new Adam gathers his new family. “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, and mother.” “The first Adam,” St. Paul would write, “became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Jesus stands at the center, imparting a new kind of life, a renewed fellowship with God. These people are of one Spirit, not one blood. Together they are dedicated to doing God’s will. Satan is truly crushed when love triumphs over jealousy, obedience over pride.
Look It Up
Read 1 Cor. 15. Is there a difference between Christ’s “binding the strong man” and “putting all things under his feet”?
Think About It
In most parts of the world where the Church is vibrant and growing today, exorcism is a normative experience for Christians. Why is it so rare among us?