Steve was a hot-head. There was no doubt about it. If anyone gave him any push back whatsoever you could see the face get red, the lips shut tight, and the eyes glare. And pretty soon after that, the shouting would begin, then getting all excited, and sometimes the flailing of arms. Why was it that Steve went from zero to sixty all the time? I don’t think that Steve would be able to answer that question himself. I don’t even think Steve would have considered himself a hot head, but everyone close to him thought that he was, and after a few encounters with his temper, they learned to tip toe around him or avoid him all together.
Steve met a nice girl through the place where he worked, and they started dating. For a while he was on his good behavior. But after about six months, Steve’s edgy side began to reveal itself. More and more Karen began to notice how easily Steve would get all nuts about things and be argumentative. One Friday night it happened again. This time it was over what movie they were going to see. One thing led to another, and Steve overreacted to something Karen said about war movies and the military. Karen was shocked at first, and then calmly but firmly responded that Steve’s actions were uncalled for and that he was acting inappropriately—she would prefer that he never speak to her like that again. This really took Steve off guard. At first he felt humiliated, but because he was really learning to care for this girl and because he respected her, it meant a lot to him that she saw him in a positive light. Maybe this was something about himself that he needed to take seriously.
What really disarmed Steve was that Karen didn’t shout back at him. But at the same time, he knew that she meant business. Steve apologized. Something that he didn’t do too often with other people.
Later that evening, over dinner, Steve and Karen were talking. One thing led to another and they found themselves talking about their childhoods and what things were like for each of them while growing up. Karen shared that there was a time when her father had a drinking problem and how disruptive that was for her and her little sister. But eventually her father realized that he had hit rock bottom and sought the help that he needed. He has been sober now for many years. She also saw how her Father’s decision to go back to church played an important part in his getting his act together. Same with her Mom—her faith helped her too. Karen said that she had to learn the hard way that screaming and hollering doesn’t really get you anywhere. This realization came from a very good counselor she and her sister were seeing in high school while they were dealing with the craziness at home when her Father was at his worst. The counselor also helped Karen deal with the anger she felt over her Father’s drinking.
Then Karen asked Steve why he always seemed so angry. Why he flew off the handle so easily. And Steve shared with Karen how his father would always belittle him in front of others when he was a kid. How he would say mean things to him and imply that he would never amount to anything. Maybe he was keeping all this inside along with other things—maybe these were the things that were really bothering him. He had always been taught that crying was not permitted in the house and that he had to be a man and stop whining. Steve had to admit that sharing this from his childhood was really helpful. And Karen said that maybe trying Mass on Sunday might be a help too!
Today, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirits. He commands them to come out of the man in the synagogue. The person is freed from them.
These unclean spirits….what are they? Well, they are the things deep inside of us, the hurts, the anger, the guilt, the sense of failure or inadequacy we feel. They are the regrets that we have, the bad decisions we made that we can’t seem to let go of. They are the things that we need to have removed from us. This is the message Christ is giving us: let the demons out of your system. I can help you to do that. One of the ways that I can help you is through another person. Through the sharing of stories where you realize that you are not alone in what you are suffering or experiencing. I am active in your life. I am doing things to help you. Through events and the people I place in your life, I am commanding the “unclean sprits” to depart so that you can be whole again and live a more peaceful life.
In the gospel all were amazed at what Jesus did for that person. We should be amazed too at what Jesus wants to do for us!