Have you ever endured an unstintingly dreary day? One of those days when the sun never really comes out? When the leaves on the trees or the faces of loved ones are not, even momentarily, bathed with that crisp, clarifying light we depend on to reveal the life and vigor of things? When hope and purpose are deferred to another day?
It seems that such an atmosphere had descended upon the synagogue of Capernaum in today’s Gospel. There is of course the explicit and troubling presence of the demon inhabiting the man, but my imagination fancies that this demonic darkness also drew upon and gravitated to a certain despondency in the worshiping community at large, a lack of expectation of light. It feels as if the living word of God had become desiccated there, and demons could thus wander with impunity.
In response to the word of the new Rabbi, this darkness concentrates and articulates itself in the demon’s voice. It despises any semblance of light, grace, or newness of life. But Jesus is there to quicken, invigorate, and awaken—to bathe this stale community with crisp and clarifying light. He will not tolerate it for another second.
I suppose this is a law of Christian experience: that the divine light must appear to us in this exact way again and again. Sin and a routine smallness of faith can slowly encircle us with shadow. May we and our families, friendships, and communities seek the Christ-light, pray for it, and dance for joy when it reappears to us, as assuredly it will.