When A Demon Knows Your Name
#WhentheDevilKnowsYourName is the podcast for January 28, 2017 . Why does evil speak the truth, especially in the Church? When evil tells us something about ourselves in the presence of others, what is their end game? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark1 #Evil #Capernaum #DowntonAbbey #Basalt #Synagogue #Contender #Pretender
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For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/25/2018 The 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 1:21-28.
I recall being at a school event and one of the kids, a boy, turns and yells, “Hey, Dad!” About 50 men turned and said, “What?!?”
Knowing someone’s name gives you a certain amount of power. We know that now in the social media age. I have a student that has a daughter. Wanting to be able to ask her in the future how her daughter is in a more personal way, I asked, “Oh, what’s your daughter’s name?” She stiffened, paused, and said, “I don’t give that information out.” It is true that when evil knows your name these days, it could create cyber-stalking, or cyber-bullying, or any number of power moves to be able to control a situation or exploit someone.
That protective instinct is because demons use our name for their own purposes. Evil people use our name for their own purposes. Think of the playground and how people took the name of a kid, changed it, and relentlessly called him that name until he had to accept it as a nickname or be tormented. There is a character in the former series, “Downton Abbey” named “Shrimpy.” He got the name from a game that he played as a kid with the head of Downton, Lord Grantham. In his sixties, he was still called “Shrimpy.”
Evil sees truth and calls it out. Look at the demon in the man in the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus is teaching. We should note that Capernaum is a black rock town. Its buildings are all made of basalt, an igneous rock formed by lava formations. So, they have an ash color to them. It was a source readily available and all buildings, houses, etc. in Capernaum were built of this material except one: the Synagogue. It was made of white limestone. In looking at pictures, palm trees, ash colored buildings, and a white limestone place to worship God makes a striking authoritative scene.
It is in this building in the town that is northwest of the Sea of Galilee that is the center of Jesus’ ministry. In the striking white synagogue, Jesus confronts a man with a demon as he is teaching in a way that is also striking to his hearers. “He is teaching as one with authority,” says the passage. In fact, I could hear the scribes and Pharisees talking about scripture in the same way we do, “It could mean this. It could mean that.” Yet, as with everything about Jesus, the man with authority in Mark, Jesus says, “This is what it means.” We see that all the time. He says, “you have heard it said to not kill, but I say to you don’t even get angry.” That is not the teaching of someone who is a secondary source. These are the words of the authoritative source.
So, in Jesus’ backyard, the house where the believers in God are, a demon confronts Jesus with the truth. “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Although Christ goes on to prove his adversary correct by authoritatively expelling the demon from the person he has overtaken, it should not go unnoticed that the demon calls him out in the synagogue where people were awaiting the Messiah. These are people who were also, guarding the claim of the Holy One of God against pretenders.
The demon is calling out Jesus’ name in the midst of people who were hopeful but humanly uncertain. The demon was trying to divide the people through using truth to set opposing claims against one another. The demon was seeking advantage in the war for souls by creating a question, “Is this the One for whom we have been waiting?” Naturally, divisions would flow from people who in the passage we are told were perplexed as to how it was that Jesus could teach with authority, heal, and drive out demons.
When evil speaks truth, which it does, it uses truth to divide. Evil weaponizes truth for its own end. Like a suicide bomber, the demon gives himself up but plants the seeds of division so that in the end at least some will not believe.
We have had that happen to us. I have. I have run into people who have known me in my greatest defeats in life. When they see me, the good ones will come to the side and ask me how I am doing. The evil ones will say out loud, “Hey, didn’t I know you when you [insert failure here].” When evil knows your name, it uses your history or identity in the worst of ways. It interprets what you do in the worst possible light. It does so to gain power and advantage over you. In the end, the goal is to humiliate so that it can cripple, alienate, and destroy.
On the other hand, the power of Jesus Christ, as we can see from the story, is to drive out the things that possess us. The power of Christ is meant to teach us truth so that we can buttress ourselves against the evil of life. The power of Christ heals us of our illnesses and demons. In the end, the goal of Christ is to heal, help, give life, and restore.
This is where the symbolism of the white synagogue in the ashen landscape of Capernaum really takes hold. Jesus is the white temple in our ashen lives. He is the restoration of who we are so that we can go forward in love of others, regardless of who they are, what sin they are in, how hard they are to love, and how mean they are to us.
Evil uses truth to possess, hurt, deceive, and destroy. Jesus is the Truth that sets free, heals, reveals, and restores.
The early church, and nowadays, in the Eastern Christian tradition, there is a prayer that is old as our faith. It is the “Jesus Prayer”. It goes like this, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” You are supposed to pray this prayer as a meditation chant. You breathe in as you think of “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” and breathe out as you think of “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” To this day, just breathing in the name of Jesus heals me. His name means “he saves.”
Our mission is to allow Jesus to be “he saves” in our lives. Our mission is to present Jesus to others in such a way that we do not diminish the truth that “he saves” so that he can restore their lives. We do that by accepting his authoritative teaching in our lives. We accept his healing power in our lives.
Here is the last thing to know about when the demon knows our name: they will see the good things in life as threats to their dominion. They will not celebrate Jesus’ goodness. They just see his coming as the impending doom of their way of life and they are right. When Jesus Christ comes into our lives with authority, our lives will change. The difference between the demons and the believers is that believers see Jesus Christ as a welcome change. Even Jesus was rejected IN THE CHURCH! You, too, will be rejected in the most important places of your life. Our mission remains: present the freedom giving, healing, revealing, and restoring authority of Jesus to the world and we will save them.
We may not do it by knowing the other person’s name, but we know the Name above all names, the Name of Jesus at whose name we bow. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian