February 8, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
February 8, 2015
Fr. George Smiga
So what is it with Jesus and these demons? This is the second weekend in a row in which Jesus tells the demons to be quiet because they knew who he is. While the crowd and even Jesus’ disciples are trying to figure out his identity, the demons get it right. They understand that Jesus is the holy one of God. So why doesn’t Jesus let them say it? They know the truth. Why not let them proclaim it? Would it not be good marketing for Jesus’ ministry to have the endorsement of his enemies that he was truly the Son of God?
But Jesus tells the demons to be quiet. He does so because he understands that truth in itself is not enough. As essential as truth is, it is not the whole of discipleship. This is because truth, at times falls short, and it can fall short in at least two different ways. Truth can fall short by being too narrow, and it can fall short by being too isolated.
Truth can fall short by being too narrow. We can know a truth, and it can be powerful, but there can be other truths that we do not see. This is the case with the demons. They know the truth of Jesus’ identity, but they do not see that if Jesus is the Son of God, they should submit to him. They know the truth of who Jesus is, but they do not see the truth of who they should be. We can experience narrow truth in our lives. Married couples know this. It is easy to see the truth of what is wrong with our wife or our husband, but it is much harder to see how we contribute to what is wrong on our part. Narrow truth also occurs in political dialogue. Partisan thinkers are convinced that they have the truth of what is going to be good for America. They can be right, but they can also be unwilling to listen to a person who sees another truth. When we experience narrow truth, it is important that we proceed with humility and the willingness to listen. Pope Francis is good at this. On many occasions he has insisted that he will not apologize for holding the truth of Jesus Christ. Yet he chooses to approach people of different faiths and even atheists with respect and the willingness to dialogue. He does this admitting that he might learn something that he did not know before.
So truth can fall short by being too narrow. It can also fall short by being too isolated. Truth is most effective when it is part of a relationship. Truth works when it is offered with care and with love. Again, the demons do not have this kind of truth. They know who Jesus is, but they have no desire to be in relationship with him. They do not want to listen to his teaching or serve him. The same can happen in our lives. Parents often know the truth of what is best for their children, but they also know that they have to do more than just tell them the truth. The truth needs to be offered as part of a relationship, as part of a commitment, and with great patience. When we try to help someone who is different from us, perhaps someone who is disadvantaged, we can see the truth of what they should do: this is how they should save their money, this is how they should eat, this is how they should guide their children. But simply telling that truth without respect and compassion for their struggle will produce little effect.
The demons know the truth of Jesus’ identity, but their truth is too narrow and too isolated. That is why Jesus tells them to keep quiet. But Jesus tells us to speak. Jesus commissions us to proclaim the Good News of God’s love to the world. That is why we must speak the truth of God in a way that is open to other truths. That is why we must announce the gospel with respect, patience, and love.