A popular gift this past Christmas season was a pedometer, which when clipped to one’s belt measures how many steps one had taken during the day. It could not measure how many steps one ought to have taken however. It then could convert to miles and some could convert into calories burned.
Many addiction-recovery groups are based on the Twelve Steps of Bill Wilson’s Alcoholics Anonymous. All promote a one-step-at-a-time progress program. There is the expression, “Stepping up to the plate” which refers to showing up for the more difficult or challenging of life’s invitations.
This week as we take our steps from one Eucharist to the next, we might pray with (yes) with our shoes! We eventually put on our shoes in the morning and hopefully take them off before going to sleep at night. It might be a prayerful way to begin and end our days.
We could hold one shoe for a moment and ponder just where this is going to take us this day. Where do I know I am heading? We hear the words, “Step lively now”. This praying with our shoes just might give a new meaning to “lively”.
Sitting back down at the edge of our bed, at the end of our day, we could remove that same shoe from the morning and reflect upon the steps we and that shoe took that day. Up to what plates did the shoe assist us to step and with what liveliness? Our days are full of one-step moments of grace. One moment might be graced by the reception of the Eucharist and then another moment might be when Christ steps through us and blesses somebody else in their shoes.
We hear from Moses today in our First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy. The verses immediately before our Reading comprise a detailed warning about listening to or trusting in sorcerers, soothsayers and various forms of fortune-telling. The people who occupied the land, to which God is giving the Jews, did all these things. For their practices they are being dispossessed.
Moses tells the people that a “prophet” will arise from their very ranks and they will listen to him. This prophet will speak the word of God for their guidance through the days of faith. The prophet will speak, not on his own authority, but only what the prophet has heard from God. The authority comes from God through the prophet and is validated by how orderly life results from the prophet’s having listened and then spoken.
These next four Sunday-Gospels leading up to Lent, picture Jesus healing individuals from their various illnesses. Today we watch His healing of a man with an unclean spirit. This most likely is an emotionally disturbed person whose behavior is not appropriate to being in a synagogue. Physical illness or any irregular behavior was attributed to personal sin or presence of evil.
This is the first of Jesus’ healings and His authority is manifested within the walls of the Holy. There is taking place a public/private announcement of Who Jesus really is. The first to recognize Him is, guess who, the devil or force of evil and destruction. That unclean spirit knows first hand, the presence of the eternal Good. There is a bit of a private conversation, which we hear. Jesus commands the Evil Spirit to be “quiet”.
Jesus is saying, “I know that you know, but I do not want evil to announce My Name and mission.” There is a simple form of secrecy going on in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus desires that individuals themselves come to the awareness and acceptance of Him as Lord and Savior. The fullness of this revelation is to follow the death and resurrection of Jesus. As for now, we the audience of this Gospel-play, are allowed glimpses of Who this is Who speaks with a new authority. Be sure to listen to the statements made by those watching and listening throughout the Gospel. They make statements of faith without even knowing it. “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” They say such things in amazement, but we, the listeners, are to hear them as statements of faith.
Whether or not we appreciate it, babies’ crying or talking out loud in church is actually quite appropriate. A few years ago, during the quiet period after Communion, we all heard a worried voice of a little child. It had been announced that there were doughnuts and coffee available after mass in the social hall. During the second collection for the building fund, we all heard, “No Dad, that’s for the doughnuts!” It was appropriate for us all to laugh at the child’s fear that the dollar held in the parent’s hand was the last one.
The teachings of Jesus which lead to His death are not all easy to live. We have unclean spirits which naturally tend us toward disorder. It is not easy to figure out and then abide what is appropriate for us as humans. Our parents tried so hard to conform us to certain standards of behavior. God is still “appropriating” us, but as we resisted our parents, teachers, coaches, so it is that we appropriately resist God and God appropriately continues “casting-in grace” and assisting us to cast out all that can destroy us.
“Let your face shine on your servant, and save me by your love. Lord, keep me from shame, for I have called to you.” Ps. 31, 17-18
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