Homily September 5th, 2023

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time – Lk 4:31-37

            In today’s Gospel, as Jesus is teaching and working miracles, an unclean spirit shouts out: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Lk 4:34). I know who you are, he tells Jesus. If we reflect on this statement, we come to ask ourselves two important questions: first, did that evil spirit really know Jesus, and, secondly, applying it to our lives, can we say that we really know Jesus?

            For the first question, if we read carefully, we can see that the evil spirit really didn’t know Jesus, and we know this for two reasons: first, notice that the spirit says, “I know who you are,” and not just “I know you.” There’s a big difference between just knowing who someone is, and actually knowing someone. Let’s consider an example: so, I know who Pope Francis is: he’s the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, he’s from Argentina. However, I can’t say I know Pope Francis as if I knew him personally. I know who he is, but I don’t really know him.

            This might seem really minor, but it’s the best way we have in English to express what the spirit says in the original Greek. The word he uses when he says he knows means a knowledge that is always linked to seeing, to sight. In other words, the spirit knows who Jesus is because he’s seen the miracles, and that leads the demon to think that Christ is someone special. This is exactly what Saint Augustine says when he writes: “Jesus made Himself known to the evil spirits only as much as He pleased. . . .  However, He made Himself known not as He did to the angels, who know Him as God . . . but by the earthly effects of His power, and evidences of His mysterious presence.”  Saint Thomas Aquinas adds that the demons confessed Jesus to be something special only because they suspected it, and not because they were certain that He was God.

The second way that we can see that the evil spirit really didn’t know Jesus is by the title he uses to address Christ: the spirit calls Jesus “the Holy One of God.” Sure, the title sounds nice, and certainly Jesus is holy and from God, but it’s a vague title. In fact, it appears fairly often in the Old Testament to refer to anyone who had a special relationship with God.  In other words, the spirit can’t see into the depths of Christ; he knows that this man Jesus must be something special because of the miracles, but he doesn’t know how or what that something special is. He doesn’t know Jesus.

            We, too, need to reflect upon whether or not we really know Jesus. One hand, it’s impossible for us to know Jesus completely; we probably know married couples who, although they’ve been married for thirty, forty, or fifty years, continue to discover new things to love about one another. It’s the same with Jesus, and, because He’s God and God is infinite, we’ll never run out of new things to learn and to love about Him.

            Yet, it’s also true that sometimes our ideas about Jesus and about God cause us problems; we sort of get stuck when we think about Him. We might have a fixed idea or image of Jesus, and then, when something happens that doesn’t fit that description, we start to wonder. Or, maybe we have an image of God that doesn’t let us continue to grow in our spiritual lives, that doesn’t let us forgive.

            C. S. Lewis explained this beautifully when he wrote: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. . . .  Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? . . . .  I need Christ [Himself], not something that resembles Him.” We can ask ourselves: who is God, who is Christ for us? Today, let us ask for the grace to know Jesus and God the Father as they really are. We ask for this grace through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, who knew Jesus better than anyone else, and loved Him more than anyone ever has.



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