Homily - 4th Sunday, Ordinary TIme

Fr. Tom Hillenbrand celebrated the Holy Mass this morning.  Watch the video of his homily.  A text copy is also printed below. 


Is the devil for real?  You better believe it!

One night at Blue Cloud Abbey, I was in my office reading.  I got a phone call from a young man in Revillo, a little town close by the Abbey that we served from the monastery.  It all started out normal enough.

He started to tell me that he was involved in a diabolical cult and he was scared and did not know how to get out of it.  The cult told him to burn his Bible and hang his crucifix upside down, which he did.

Then as he was talking to me, in an instant, his voice changed completely into a very deep and gravelly voice that I could hardly understand.  Just like the voice of the devil in the movie “The Exorcist.”

I hung up immediately but I was pretty shaken up by that experience. Believe me, the devil is real.

Even tho the devil is real, he is very seldom that dramatic or obvious.  He is generally more subtle in our lives, but he is there nevertheless.

In the missalette “Give us this Day” Rachel Linner writes of her little demon “resentment.”  She says: “I confessed the sin in the Sac. Of Reconciliation and prayed for the person whenever I found myself remembering the litany of wrongs he had done to me. And why was I reciting the litany anyway, which only nestled the unclean spirit deeper in my heart.” And don’t we all do this with those we resent?  Recite a litany of wrongs about those people we are at odds with.

Rachel goes on to say: “The more I asked Jesus to remove the stubborn sin and it handmaidens (pride, self-pity, righteousness, envy) the more barriers I put in Jesus’ way.  I know my unclean spirits and they know me.

I harden my heart because if Jesus expels the unclean spirits, I will be empty”.   Here Rachel was referring to the psalm response we had today: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Then she goes on to say: “Maybe I will spend years in purgatory before I am cleansed.  But I want my unclean spirits expelled long before I die, so that I can be free to do Jesus’ work in the world. If only I don’t harden my heart.”

Probably the one over-riding demon we all have to deal with is the same one that Rachel had to deal with.  Relationships.  Relationships with others that have gone sour, or worse, that have crashed and burned.

All of us, at some time or another, have people we just can’t forgive.  We can’t seem to get them out of our mind.  The main problem is that no matter how hard we try, we can’t, by our own effort,  forgive them.  We are carrying way  too much pain and hurt, too much emotional baggage, too much anger.

Even Jesus could not forgive all those who scourged, slapped, spit on him and than nailed him to a cross.  He was in way too much pain to forgive.  So what did he do?  He turned them all over to His Father and said; “Father, you forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

And that’s what we have to say as well to let Jesus drive the demons of hate, anger, and resentment out of our hearts.  When that person pops into our head we need to say immediately: “Father, forgive him, forgive her, they know not what they are doing.”  And then move on, and go about our business.  Live in the present moment, live in the now.

Our problem when we start getting down, getting upset or depressed or angry, is that we are thinking way too much, and praying way too little.  Stop thinking, and start praying.  Put that person at the foot of the cross and move on.  Don’t look back, don’t think back.

Martin Luther King was one of the most forgiving persons of all. He preached and practiced non-violence, and turning the other cheek.  He said it so well: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Paul says in the 2nd reading: “Brothers and Sisters,  I would like you to be free of anxieties.”  And he also says: “Try, as far as possible, to live in peace with everyone.”

So how can we all be free of anxieties?  How do we let Jesus drive out the little demons in our heart?  We need to do 3 things.

Pray more, think less.  Instead of thinking thru-out the day which we all do way too much, we need to start praying little prayers thru-out the day.  Little “Thank You’s” thru-out the day,  as one man told me after Mass one day.  He said: “I try to say little “thank you’s” everyday, thru-out my day.”

Pray “Father forgive them, they know not what they do,” for any person we can’t forgive. Then let them go and move on and focus on what you are doing.

Live in love.   Love alone can drive out hate, drive out the darkness in our life.

Fr. Tom Hillenbrand, OSB