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4th Sunday of OT (02-01-15) - To Know Jesus is to Know Others

In 2012 I had the great privilege of going to El Salvador for the first time. The Diocese of Cleveland celebrates 50 years of active missionary work in El Salvador in 2015. When I was reflecting on my trip there were obviously many great memories. From the time I walked outside of the airport, I felt like I was in another world. It felt as though the tropical environment of El Salvador during the rainy season looked more closely to what I saw in the movie Avatar than Northeast Ohio. Aside from experiencing this new environment, I felt like for the first time I really had the opportunity to see the Gospel come alive right in front of my eyes. The people in the mission territory didn't have much in terms of material goods, but what they did have was a richness in faith. Let me highlight that through one of my encounters with an elderly woman named Elena.

One of the great activities that the parish of San Pedro does to bring the Gospel alive is the

physical act of evangelization. They literally will travel up and down streets to visit parishioners or people with no faith affiliation (which is not common). After we broke up into small groups of 3 or 4, we set out to travel up and down streets that were so steep that my legs burned for most of the day. Usually the people we visited interacted with the other evangelizers, but there was one elderly woman who only wanted to speak with me. While I know a decent amount of Spanish, there was still a language barrier. What I experienced in that thirty minutes was such a blessing in my life. Despite not being very familiar with the Salvadorean culture and having language barrier issues, Elena and I communicated very well that day. Simply put, it was because we had a mutual friend that we loved very much --- Jesus Christ. She shared her faith story and asked me about mine. And when it was time for me to leave, despite not having much, she went into her clean clothes pile and pulled out a white handkerchief. She wanted me to use it for my feet on my travels. Smiling, I asked her if I could use it to wipe the sweat from my brow after climbing up and down these streets. She laughed and gave me permission.

This weekend we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Our Gospel story picks up where we left off last week. Jesus travels with His disciples into the synagogue. He begins to teach and gathers quite the crowd. They discuss among themselves by what authority Jesus was speaking. He didn't have any formal rabbinical or theological training like the Scribes and Pharisees. He couldn't trace His teaching lineage to any specific teacher they would have known; yet, Jesus spoke with authority nonetheless. But the people in the synagogue that day would be astonished and amazed not just by the words of Jesus, but by what He would do next. A man plagued with demons was in the synagogue that day. You have to imagine that the Scribes and Pharisees tried to do something at some point, but failed. Immediately, the demons recognize Jesus and ask if He came to destroy them. They try to exert power over Him by naming Him and revealing His true identity as the "Holy One of God," but what we see is that Jesus doesn't play by their rules. He tells them to be quiet and come out of the man. By His word, they violently leave the man. This again causes great commotion among the people in the synagogue about the authority and power of Jesus.

Each and every day we are witnesses to the power of Jesus all around us. We read stories and sometimes see the mystery of God right in front of us. We do have to ask ourselves though, "do we allow ourselves to be transformed by Jesus? Do we allow His name and power to influence our lives." In 2012, I witnessed many people who lived their faith very openly. They let it permeate every aspect of their lives. When I met Elena, it was as though I was seeing a long lost friend. It was because of our common faith... this Catholic faith. 

When we hear the name of Jesus, what is our reaction? What we see in the Gospel is that even demons saw the power of Christ. As believers, do we recognize it as well? We know the end of the story. He came to show how much He loves us by granting us salvation through the power of the cross. May our witness to Him transform the lives of those we encounter. May they see the joy we have in witnessing to Him. Like the Salvadorean people, may we not put our stake in money, fame, or material, but in the faith we profess.