Every one of us has problems. Some of us have allergies. Others need help with their reading because it is hard for them. Others struggle with arithmetic. Some of us are not very good at sports. Adults have problems too, health problems, family problems, unemployment problems, problems with the boss or with alcohol. We all need a Savior to heal us, save us and set us free.
It was no different 2,000 years ago. In today’s Gospel, Jesus cured many people, including Peter’s mother-in-law, drove out many demons and preached in synagogues throughout Galilee. Elsewhere he heals 10 lepers, a woman with a hemorrhage, a boy with epilepsy and a paralytic. He opened the eyes of a blind man, the ears and tongue of a deaf mute, and healed a cripple.
Jesus was famous as a teacher and healer, and only later did people discover that he was also their savior, something they realized gradually as they reflected on the meaning of his teaching and miracles. In Mark’s Gospel, it says, “All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” Mark then added: His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Today we are gathered to dedicate a new high school for your parish. I hope all of you recognize what a remarkable achievement this is for your parish. There are only two parishes in the whole state that have a parish high school, you and Morrilton, and that is only possible because of your sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who came before us — people who know the saving power of Jesus and want you, the next generation, to have all the spiritual and human resources you need to deal with all the problems that come up in life — Jesus working in your life by means of this school.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus drove out unclean spirits from people possessed by demons, but there are other unclean spirits out in the world from which we all need protection, and no place provides a better environment for healthy growth than in a Catholic high school like St. Joseph.
Of course, we all need to be on guard against unclean spirits in our own personal lives too. Pride is an unclean spirit, so also is envy, lust and greed. Some are possessed by hatred, which makes them feel miserable all the time. Others are enslaved to compulsions and habits of sin that have taken possession of them almost as if they were possessed by a demon. Jesus can free us from all these unclean spirits as well — but only insofar as we commit ourselves to do whatever is necessary to stay free once Jesus has done his part. And your parish should be a big help in that department — especially with your new high school.
How about you? Jesus has come to heal you, save you and set you free. Our Gospel says, “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Elsewhere he heals the sick, and throughout the Gospels, he shows us how to embrace our crosses with love and thereby make them redemptive. But we do have to respond, and not just with words but also by dedicating ourselves to doing whatever is necessary to stay free once Jesus has done his part.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Aug. 31 for the dedication of the new St. Joseph High School in Conway.
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