2.4.18 Sun. wk 5 – O. T. – B
1st Reading: Book of Job 7: 1 – 4, 6 – 7
Corinthians 9: 16 – 19, 22 – 23
Gospel – Mark 1: 29 – 39
On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come. So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Fighting the ‘Noonday Devil’
Many of us can truly identify with good ol’ Job. He is in misery because of what has befallen him. Job was a good and faithful man; he had done everything right in his life. He was prosperous and he was a happy man. Then suddenly, he lost everything: his property was taken, his children were killed when the house they were in collapsed and his health began to deteriorate. Even today, we ask the question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The will of God is not to spare us from difficult times. This life is meant to be incomplete and challenging. The fullness of life comes in heaven. God’s plan, however, is to be with us during those difficult times. He sent His Son as “Emmanuel”, which means “God is with us”. Yet, many people can fall into discouragement and feel hopeless. Like Job, we may lay awake at night wondering if the night, if the darkness we experience, will ever come to end?
It is during these times that the evil doer goes to work. We know people who have stopped believing in God. Often they mistook human suffering as proof that God does not exist or, at the very least, does not care. There is a term found in mystical theology: “acedia”. It is Greek word which means: “I do not care”. It refers to a type of indifference; a weariness. In the Christian Tradition, it can mean “melancholy, listlessness, disdain for the things of God, and for the very love of God, sloth or laziness in general with regard to religious practices” (Fr. Louis Cameli: The Devil You Don’t Know; Ave Maria Press, Notre dame; 2011; p.127). It is being discouraged. Ancient Christian authors called this “acedia”, or “the noonday devil”. It refers to what field workers felt in the middle of a hot day, a day that dragged on. They could become sluggish; it seemed forever until the day will end and they would want to give up and go home. A person can be a very hard worker and accomplishing many good things but, on that day, because they are discouraged, nothing is going right and they want to give up. When our life becomes difficult and we see no light at the end of the tunnel, the evil doer steps in, quietly. The devil leads us away from our faith and trust in God and we lose hope.
Fr. Lou Cameli, in his book “The Devil You Don’t Know”, describes this subtle form of attack by the devil. He writes:
“Acedia happens, not at the dawn or the beginning of a deliberate and intentional spiritual journey. Acedia belongs as a temptation to those who have been on the journey for a while” (ibid, p.129). The devil then leads those who are weary, tired and discouraged away from their commitments, encouraging them to abandon their spiritual journey, their vocation, the work God has placed before them. There are many characteristics of this temptation: “psychic exhaustion, listlessness caused by monotony, dejection, restlessness, hatred of one’s call (or vocation)…and a strong desire to leave and go do something else” (ibid.). A person becomes discouraged because of the way things have turned out; or not turned out as they had planned. I see this in some people who come to confession. They are discouraged because
they confess the same sins. The devil quietly says to them: “You began your spiritual journey to be close to God. But look at you – you are no different now than when you first started. You might as well go back and embrace the world (the secular culture)…your former way of life” (ibid). Growth in the spiritual life can be difficult to measure in worldly terms, because spiritual growth has to do with the quality of our relationship with God and others, the quality of our love and not the quantity. Love leaves it mark through compassion, sacrifice and commitment. The evil doer, on the other hand wants us to measure our spiritual life in secular terms (He who has the most toys, wins)
How do we fight this discouragement this “acedia”? We must look to †Jesus who is our example and our hope. Pope Benedict XVI taught: “When healing does not happen and suffering is prolonged, we can be…isolated and then our life is depressed and dehumanized. How should we react to this attack of evil?…Just as †Jesus confronted the Evil One with the power of love…so, we too, can confront and live through the (trials) keeping our hearts immersed in God’s love” (Pope Benedict XVI; Angelus, 6 February 2012, St. Peter’s Square). Great saints like Teresa of Avila, experienced “acedia”. Her remedy against this “noonday devil” was: “Do not think much…but love much”. Through acts of love, we will be reminded of our call to holiness; that †Jesus loved us to the point of death. We are called to imitate that selfless love; that “agape” love. In the 1st Letter of John, we read: “God is love” (1 Jn.4:8). With every act of love, we are in God’s presence reminded of the glory that will be ours if we persevere. In contrast to Job, St. Paul, in our second reading is full of hope and enthusiasm. He preached the Gospel “willingly”. †Jesus gave the people of Capernaum hope. They were occupied by a foreign army; their religious leaders placed heavy burdens on them and many were suffering illness. †Jesus came to show them the power God’s love; that God had visited His people and not forgotten them. Blessed Charles de Foucauld roamed the North African desert alone in the early 20th century. He preached the Gospel while living among Bedouins. He certainly experienced isolation and discouragement amidst the lack of converts. He wrote: “One should not be sad but look above it all, to our Beloved Lord. For it is He whom we love, and not ourselves, and it is His good that concerns us. Hope is a duty – charity hopes for all – hope is but faith in the goodness of God” (The Devil You Don’t Know; p.151).
If we know †Jesus is with us, we can face adversity with hope – and even joy. Believe in the goodness of God. With hope we will resist the “noonday devil”, we will move from discouragement to love, from a sense of isolation to the presence of God. If we truly KNOW †Jesus, we will KNOW hope. If there is NO †Jesus, there is NO hope.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.