Updated: Jan 30, 2021
I remember, when I was a teen, I heard a report that Billy Graham limited how much his children could watch television. I heard that on the TV news.
Right about that time in my life, I quit the Boy Scouts because I would rather watch The Munsters, and I stopped going to church, partially because I always missed The Ed Sullivan Show, My Favorite Martian, Combat! and other shows on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday nights. Those were shows that other children would talk about at school the day after.
I was left out of those conversations because I was embarrassed to say, “I didn’t see that show, because I was at church.”
Recently, I watched a documentary on television about George Harrison, “the quiet Beatle.” I recall that show presenting a news clip from about 1964 that reported, “Nine out of ten parents believe going to church was very important, but for teens and young adults the number is only four out of ten.” Today, the stats are much lower than they were in 1964, for parents and children.
Not only was religion too restrictive to kids my age, it wasn’t new … like television and the latest fads. I was caught up in “Beatlemania,” just like all my peers, and I had missed their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show … although I remember claiming to be sick one Sunday, so I could watch one of the reruns that featured The Beatles. And … that was before John Lennon said The Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ.
He was right, in one regard … but popularity is best measured in longevity; and The Beatles have another 1,900 years to go IF the popularity of Christianity were to die this very moment.
On that subject of the popularity of Christianity, in recent weeks, I have watched two movies on my home television set that featured Catholic priests. Television and Hollywood tend to treat religion as a foreign object, as some form of interpretation of “what it must be like being a priest.”
For as much as “method acting” had led actors to live with those whose roles they will pretend to emote, it would seem priests don’t merit starring roles or are not supposed to be portrayed seriously. I doubt if a young Al Pacino would have lived with a Jesuit priest for as long as he hung around with the police detective he would portray in Serpico … but then who did he learn how to play the lead in Devil’s Advocate from? Still, with that glaring lack of attention to truthfully reflecting religion in movies, the two films I watched went against that trend, giving a sense of reality to the priesthood.
One of the movies, Calvary, symbolically predicted the end of the Church. This was because of people having lost their faith … including many priests. It was set in Ireland and placed blame on past priests who had abused their positions of trust long ago (as pedophiles), and then were never justly punished for their “sins.”
The other movie, The Rite, was based on the true story of a Roman Catholic exorcist, who was trying to convince another priest – one who was educated as a therapist or psychologist – that demons did indeed possess human beings. The “young priest” kept saying he did not believe in crazy people needing exorcists, more than they needed a psychiatrist and prescribed drugs.
The most powerful line of the movie was when the young priest was forced to cast out a demon. A battle of words ensued, where the unclean spirit inside a man had told him, “You don’t believe in God. You believe in me.” The “me” was evil, eventually revealed as “Ba’al.” The priest (who had a past which the demon spirit knew about) was not without the regrets of sin, thus the priest was vulnerable because of his doubts. He eventually said to the demon, “I do believe in you … which means I believe in God,” at which point he cast out the demon. He stopped having doubts.
The end credits of the movie stated how the young priest was a practicing exorcist for the Catholic Church, in Chicago, having performed a number of exorcisms since then. The elder exorcist was said to still be practicing in Rome (in 2009), having then performed over 2,000 exorcisms.
In both movies, dedicated priests were presented within a setting of modern conditions, where the majority of people have largely lost their faith in religion, amid dwindling attendance by professed Catholics. Those who were truly shepherding the few who still clung to the church were shown working alongside priests who were less dedicated and less faithful.
In The Rite, the mere presence of demons in people was a statement about having lost faith. In Calvary, the dedicated priest encountered his fellow priest, who was leaving. That departing priest admitted, “I’m having doubts.” The good priest said, “You have no integrity. That’s the worst thing you can say about anybody.”
When I was in a seminary setting, I witnessed a trend away from “good priests” as depicted in Calvary – mid-60’s, having become a priest after the death of his wife, with an adult daughter. Today the trend is towards “young priests” like the therapist-priest, who was full of doubts to overcome, in The Rite. I saw a seminary that educated would-be priests with questionable integrity, who seemed to be looking for a stable job, more than answering a call to serve God.
Notice How “College” comes before “Seminary,” with “College” meaning Young.
All of this that I have recalled for you just now fits snugly into the readings for today, especially when we are reminded of Jesus as an exorcist, in Mark’s Gospel.
You may recall how Mark said that Jesus, “cast out many demons; and Jesus would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” In the movie The Rite, both priests who performed exorcisms got into exchanges of wills, between the priests and the demon possessing someone. The demon spirit indeed said it knew the person who was trying to be stronger than it. Because that spirit knew the exorcist had cracks of doubt in his armor, a history of sin that was covered by a façade of faith, it fought back viciously.
In the movie Calvary, the “good priest” remarked that the faithful only remained faithful because they feared death. If you fear evil more than God, you believe in God only as a way to beg for forgiveness before you die, so you can avoid hell. You cannot defeat evil with faith like that.
The demons in the village of Simon-Peter’s home knew Jesus was without doubt, without a sinful past, and bringing the full power of God within him. That presence, of Jesus’ complete faith in God, would not permit the demons a chance to fight back.
When you see how Jesus cast out demons while also “curing many who were sick with various diseases,” that makes a statement that says illnesses, both mental and physical, are a result of lowered faith. Lowered faith is a condition of poor shepherding. Poor shepherding is a result of lowered faith. It is a downward spiral – a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure – that creates a force away from an inner faith in God, towards an outer belief that God is in others who will “save me from myself.”
We put our faith in medical doctors and psychiatrists – physical and mental healers. We put our faith in priests and preachers, evangelists and exorcists – who will ward off the evil spirits that we allow inside us. We put our faith in things, as a sign of how well God loves us.
This condition today is no different than the conditions in the days of Jesus’ ministry. When Simon found Jesus and said, “Everyone is searching for you,” Jesus said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns.”
That was not a statement of avoidance, as if Jesus had doubts. You see, Jesus was not in that village seeking to be the one those people could put their faith in – as their healer, as their teacher and confessor, as their good luck charm – because Jesus was not there to glorify himself. He was there to give a message to everyone and even though they might not know it, everyone was indeed searching for the Messiah and his message.
The message said, “Those who serve the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not be faint.” (As Isaiah’s song sings.)
In short, Jesus came to show everyone, in that village and throughout Galilee and Judea, that they have the power to heal themselves by allowing God to become one with them. They simply need to serve God, and not self. Serving self only allows for one’s self to become possessed with evil spirits that cause illnesses.
The mind that heals is the mind of Christ, brought by the Holy Spirit.
It was not a new message, as Jesus did not come with a caravan of clanging cymbals and trumpets blaring to announce, “New for you! Must see what has never been seen before!” – like a circus coming to town.
Instead, the message of Jesus was, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” (As Isaiah’s song begins and refrains.)
Jesus sang, “The LORD lifts up the lowly, but casts the wicked to the ground.” (As David’s psalm sings.) “The LORD has pleasure in those who fear him, in those who await his gracious favor.” (As Isaiah’s song sings.)
When you all claim to be faithful to God, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?”
Now Paul was doing the same thing Jesus was doing. We know this because Paul was an Apostle, so he was a model of Jesus. Paul was not coming as a sideshow, but as one bearing the same message that Jesus took to the village of Simon.
Paul said, “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no grounds for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!”
Jesus could have said the same thing!
Because we call the four books that tell of Jesus the man “the Gospels,” realizing the word “gospel” means “good news,” we begin to think the “good news” was Jesus has come; and he is that external idol we should all now pray to for health, sanity and prosperity. That misses the point of Jesus also “proclaiming the gospel.”
God is who Jesus prayed to early in the morning. Jesus quietly, without fanfare, went to a solitary place to thank God for allowing him to present the message that God is all-powerful, as the source of good health and humane life. Paul modeled that; and the message says for all of us to model Jesus too.
Paul added that the message was “free of charge” to all. So, as Jesus told Simon, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do,” the message cannot stop and be set upon a pedestal in a museum that then charges admission, just to maintain a building’s upkeep and management. It is living and not stagnant.
God sent Jesus to tell the world to be like Christ, while showing the world what rewards came from being like Christ. Paul, and all the Apostles, and all the Saints thereafter, were multiplications of Jesus, exponentially spreading that message, so that Christianity grew because there were so many more Jesus models in the world.
Perhaps by reading some C.S. Lewis symbolism here, one can see how we reflect outwardly what we have inwardly.
In that vein of thought, Paul said, “I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” He said, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.”
In that regard, Paul meant respecting the values of all people, rather than meet people as if stating, “I have God within me, and you don’t. So, listen to me if you want a better life.” That is threatening and scares people away.
Still, Paul did not “become all things to all people” because he was like some person who has a sign in the front yard proclaiming “Psychic Reader.” He was not adept in reading people’s facial expressions and then telling them what they want to hear … for a fee. Neither did Jesus go from town to town doing such parlor tricks.
Paul, like Jesus, was filled with the Holy Spirit, possessing the mind of God – which like the demon spirit knew … that Holy Spirit was God in Jesus – the Holy Spirit knows all people, as well as all spirits. Jesus knew those whom he healed through the mind of God, so the mind of God worked miracles through Jesus. Likewise, Paul was led to act in the ways of those he encountered, so they were put at ease and not defensive and guarded.
By being all things to all people, all the people Paul encountered were open to receiving the message that God would save them, as long as they became dedicated to being the reincarnation of Jesus, believing Jesus worked miracles as an extension of God.
Like the people of Israel, who wanted a king to rule over them, a king who could be trusted to be connected to God – like David – the people of Galilee and Judea had been trained to have no true faith that God would work miracles within themselves. They waited for the Messiah to come and be that external protection again.
It does not work that way. The people of Simon’s village were ill in body and spirit because they did not know how to face God … and become His child, reincarnated.
We are no different today, after centuries of Saints and Kings spreading the message of Christ, that message has slowly been lost. That has taken away the light, and in the darkness we have stumbled back to a repeating of the times when the people fall ill and seek external salvation.
More people get their “religion fix” from watching television – either CBN, TBN (the PTL Club), or movies that enter the eyes and leave seeds of thought behind that grow into doubt. We watch cable news networks that repeatedly tell us how much evil there is in the world, with no message how to exorcise those demons.
Most people would rather do anything, other than come to church, pray, discuss the Bible, and go spread the message of God’s healing love. We watch the television news and wonder why someone doesn’t go stop all the insanity that permeates the world?
That “someone” is never us. We are too weak. We are but one person in a sea of evil. We have no faith in our ability to act alone, because we fear our death.
Paul said, “To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak.” That says, “Everyone is strong enough to heal the world if you stop thinking in terms of one frail, weak, sick human being, and start thinking in terms of one who has been touched by God and healed, with the abilities of Jesus, and willing to spread the message of God’s power to a world filled with demons.”
The unclean spirits of this world knows that Holy Spirit; and they know they cannot fight against it. With you and the Holy Spirit, the rest of the world is outmatched.
#Mark12939 #Haveyounotheard #lureoftelevision #movieTheRite #fifthSundayafterEpiphanyB #Simonsmotherinlawhealed #Haveyounotknown #1Corinthians91623 #youngpriests #movieCalvary #goodpriests #FifthSundayaftertheEpiphany #Isaiah402131 #Jesustheexorcist #Psalm147112