January 28 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hi! For those who have not had the chance to meet me yet, my name is Jonathan. I am a seminarian who has been serving the parish on the weekends while also commuting an hour to Mundelein Seminary on weekdays for my studies. I am thankful to get the opportunity to write this week’s bulletin. Furthermore, I am very happy to announce that my full time internship at the parish begins today! I look forward to serving the parish to a fuller extent. Feel free to approach me and invite me to help you in your parish ministry!

Today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark describes Jesus entering the local synagogue and preaching with authority. The response of the people was that of astonishment because this man did not speak as the scribes. He did not support his words by referencing those before him, but spoke with the same authority as the prophets! To emphasize the authority that he possessed, Jesus drives out an unclean spirit from a man.

My attention was drawn to the action of Jesus driving out an unclean spirit, especially in the context of a synagogue. Often, when I teach children or teens preparing to receive the sacraments about the inside of a church, I speak about the sacredness of the space. Christ is truly present in a different way than if you were simply praying in your home. One way we remind ourselves of this reality is through the actions we do with our bodies in that space. We genuflect, make the sign of the cross, and try to respect the sacredness of the space by keeping silent. Thus, the action of Jesus driving out an unclean spirit in what is a sacred space can evoke astonishment!

I would be surprised to hear if many people have had personal experiences of unclean spirits being cast out in church. It is simply not something often experienced, heard about, or reflected upon. However, as today’s Gospel brings up, there is the reality that evil can still enter sacred spaces such as our church. What I invite you to consider is that this evil often enters through us. As humans, we aren’t perfect, we sin, and this sin over time makes us blind to our own wrongdoings. We may even become inflexible when our faults are pointed out by others. I bring this up not because I desire to see more scrupulosity. No, instead, I desire to see more people set free in the sacrament of confession. You might not have an unclean spirit, but we all are carrying some weight of sin in our hearts. I think today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus desires to cast out all those things that keep us away from him.

 With that desire to grow closer to the Lord, I then remind you as well that Ash Wednesday is in a little more than two weeks. I invite you during this time to prepare yourself, and ask in prayer how the Lord is inviting you to grow in your relationship with him. Don’t seek to simply mortify the body because you want a physical result. Instead, seek to turn away from sin, and grow in your relationship with God.

Jonathan Hernandez