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Glancing Thoughts
4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year B
January 31, 2021
Eleonore Stump
The One and the Many

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus heals a man who was possessed. But notice that when the demon-possessed man first talks to Jesus, he uses the first-person plural pronoun to refer to himself. He says, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?

We know from our own painful experience, being double-minded is a kind of slavery to our worst selves.

Why does he say “us”? Why doesn’t he say “me”?

The answer, I think, is that although there is only one human body giving voice to these words, there is more than one mind behind the words. That is why that one man’s voice says “us” to refer to himself.

When Jesus heals the man, he does so by ridding him of all minds but one, the man’s own. In healing him, Jesus makes him single-minded. And so the Gospel Reading calls to our attention what an affliction it is to be double-minded.

Even just dealing with the double-mindedness of long bad habit can be miserable and devilishly difficult. Someone says to you when you are trying to diet and not doing particularly well, “Do you want another helping of pasta?” And what is the answer? Do you want more pasta? You do, you know you do, don’t you? And yet somehow you really don’t either.

And so, as we know from our own painful experience, being double-minded is a kind of slavery to our worst selves.

Real freedom is being able to do what you want to do. But if you have two minds about something, which mind is the real you? How can there be one real you when you are in two minds about something?

That’s why you aren’t free when you are double-minded. No matter what you do, you aren’t doing what you want to do because there isn’t just one you.

Like the demon-possessed man in the Gospel Reading, you will be free only when you are single-minded. But the demon-possessed man in the Gospel Reading was single-minded only after Jesus had healed him.

And so here is the lesson for us. In another Gospel text (John 8:32), Jesus tells his disciples that they will know the truth, and the truth will make them free. For those who will come to Jesus to be freed from their demons, he himself is that healing Truth that will make them free. 

Eleonore Stump

Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go