10th Sunday In Ordinary Time-June 9, 2024

After walking a mile in the procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Emmitsburg, I was given the amazing privilege of carrying the Lord in the monstrance for the last leg of the procession. I took the monstrance back into the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and placed it on the altar for the final benediction. Bringing the Lord into that beautiful Basilica was an amazing experience in my life as a priest. In this moment, the secondary goal of the parish pilgrimage was fulfilled, which was to participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage that went through Emmitsburg this past June 6.

The primary goal of the pilgrimage was fulfilled the day before when we knelt in front of the mortal remains now known as relics of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. I wanted to do this since the moment I was appointed Pastor of this parish two years ago. Divine Providence doubly blessed me by allowing me to make a pilgrimage with members of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in conjunction with participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. It was like extra icing on the cake! I hope to compile a photo album with documentation of the pilgrimage to share with you in the following weeks. I would like to thank you for your prayers for us pilgrims. I would also like to thank all the parishioners who participated in the pilgrimage. They now have beautiful memories to share and cherish.

Turning to today’s gospel reading allows us to see one signature technique of the gospel of Mark. The technique is to “sandwich” one story inside another so that each helps understand the other. The story of the disturbing accusation of the scribes that the Lord was possessed by the devil and that he performed exorcisms by demonic sorcery or magic is inserted in the middle of the story of the Lord’s family misunderstanding of his identity and mission. Saint Mark will offer us another exquisite “sandwich” in three Sundays.

Today, I will focus on the scribes’ accusation about the Lord being possessed and performing demonic magic. The Church pairs today’s gospel with the account from Genesis in which God punishes the serpent (a symbol of the devil) after tempting Adam and Eve, leading them to commit original sin. God tells the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Genesis 3: 15). This is the famous first announcement in the Bible of the good news of salvation.

The reading from Genesis is paired with the gospel reading to show how, from the very beginning, there was hostility between God and the devil and that what the scribes were accusing the Lord was impossible. 

The Lord shows the scribes’ accusation to be false. The Lord did not use the power of the devil to expel demons. Using examples of rulers of kingdoms and houses, the Lord proves the scribes’ logical absurdity. The devil cannot make war on his own subordinates through the Lord’s exorcisms because the devil’s own dominion would quickly collapse.

The Lord also talks about the scribes’ accusation that he was possessed by the devil. The Lord gives them a dark warning, “Amen, I say to you” (Mark 3: 28). The Lord tells them that all sins, including blasphemies (that is, the most serious sins of insulting or abusing the name of God) will be forgiven. However, blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. The scribes were at serious risk of committing that grave sin. They were in danger of hardening their hearts so completely that they could defiantly decline to recognize the action of the Holy Spirit. They could even attribute to evil the good works done by the Lord in the power of the Spirit. To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to close the door to the Spirit’s inner work of conversion.

The Lord does not tell us that there is any exception to the mercy of God. The Lord tells us that people who persist in that kind of willful blindness refuse to repent. Doing that, they close themselves to the forgiveness that God offers through the Lord. Let us humbly ask the Lord to grant us his grace to open our hearts to accept the Holy Spirit’s interior action and repent.