We are in the depths of Lent. In the Gospel, our Lord shows us that He takes away something. Next week’s Gospel is the multiplication of the loaves in John, a clear reference to the Eucharist. So, then, He gives us something. Like the reference which underlies the Eucharist, the seed planted dies to itself, so it helps us to think of this. When we draw near to God, something in us dies, that is, whatever is not of God. And He gives us sanctifying grace.
It also helps us to think of the ancient days when the catechumens would be present, preparing for baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. So the epistle has a reference to the cross of Christ, Who has loved us and has delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God, and the injunction to the newly-baptized in the Ephesians, to avoid certain actions, which are idolatry. The baptismal ceremony has several exorcisms, commanding the foul spirits to leave the newly-baptized alone. Our Lord takes away something, and He gives us something.
What does He take away? First of all, our sins. We say it three times in the Mass, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, from the words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John when He sees the Lord. And these simple words are very important, because the Protestant reformers did not believe that our Lord takes away sins, only that He covers them up. But anyone can do that. It takes God to forgive sins, to take them away. We say, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. What is He doing by taking away our sins, but giving us peace, peace which comes from reconciliation with the Father, which only He can do. And not only for us, but we say, you take away the sins of the world. If anyone asks you what is the way to peace in the world, tell them the cross of Christ. He is the only means of salvation, He is our one hope for peace, He is our only hope.
But the Gospel shows us that He also takes away the root of our sin. We will always have concupiscence, the inclination to sin. Our human nature has been wounded at the beginning because of Adam and Eve, although some great saints came to the point where they did not have even the first inclination so sin, so it is possible. But we see in the Gospel that the demon was mute. That means not only that that the man could not speak, but he could not hear. We learn to speak from hearing. It is has a symbolic meaning. Those who are spiritually deaf cannot hear the Word of God, nor are they able to give witness by their speech. Wonderfully, our Lord casts out this mute spirit, and the man spoke. This is the root of sin, to not hear the Word of God, the good news of the Gospel, the teaching of the Church. And our Lord takes it away, so that we may be filled with His grace.
And at the end of the Gospel, and there are no mistakes, it looks like this is an appendage, where a woman shouts out from the crowd, blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck, a reference in praise of our Lord and of His Blessed Mother. And our Lord says, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. He does not repudiate His mother, by any means, because no one heard the Word of God and kept it more than the Blessed Virgin Mary. He gives her to us as our example. Her faith, at the Annunciation, even when she did not understand, how can this be?, as soon as she was sure it was of God she gave her whole interior consent, let it be done to me as you say. Her humility, at our Lord’s first miracle at Cana, do whatever He tells you. Her fidelity, at all the junctures in our Lord’s life, including the cross, Mary is present, faithfully, bearing witness to her divine Son. And, it is a beatitude. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord says, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, and here is another beatitude, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. The Gospel begins with this deafness, which our Lord heals, and ends with this beatitude, blessed are those who hear, who hear the Word of God.
Our Lord shows us by His miracle and gives us His instruction, of the importance of this, that we hear His word and be filled with His light. He takes something away, our sins, our frailty, and He gives us something, His very life.