There is something about the gospel of Mark today that I find to be both frightening and hopeful. The stage is set where Jesus enters a synagogue on a Sabbath day, his usual Sabbath routine of joining the community for prayer, and in the midst of his teaching a man with an unclean spirit confronts him and cries out. The scene, at first, seems rather intimidating and one can immediately assume that the person with whom Jesus will have this encounter suffers greatly with a challenged spirit. I guess, when all is said and done, what I find to be the hopeful message of the gospel is that Jesus’ only desire is to call forth the best of who we are! Jesus wants to acknowledge and celebrate Holy spirits, not unclean ones. His mission is to give power to spirits that bring forth life; spirits that encourage; spirits that are connected to generous hearts; and definitely spirits whose power to transform the world comes only from God who is good. Jesus is not going to acknowledge or allow unclean spirits to have any power. He will not give-in to those false powers whose only desire is to make life hard and difficult. The spirit of “giving up” or not really caring about our lives, our families, our friends, or our faith is not a welcomed spirit in the life of Jesus. Nor should it be acceptable for us either!
This past Tuesday, I had the privilege again of going over to the Cara Program just down the street on Des Plaines and Jackson. Though many of you know this already, Cara (which comes from the Gaelic for Soul Friend) was started on the campus of Old St. Patrick’s 20 years ago. The mission of the Cara Program is to help in the process of transforming the lives of individuals who have been homeless, faced addiction, or in some way found themselves among the at-risk population in Chicago. Cara is wildly successful; it is an inspirational program bringing forth new hope and resurrected life to a lot of people. More than just a “welfare to work” type of program, Cara is about the “whole person” and helping people find the inner strength and deepest truth of who they are.
Each day, the Cara Program begins at 8:30 a.m. with what is called Motivations. Motivations is the first 30 minutes of the day and its purpose is to motivate, inspire, empower and strengthen the spirit of all the Cara students to keep believing in the goodness within them. Motivations takes place on the 2nd floor of Cara’s new building (after they outgrew their space at Old St. Pat’s) and if you are ever walking down Jackson Boulevard, you will hear the praise and song of women and men motivating each other and calling each other to their best selves. I love motivations; I am disappointed I have not taken more advantage of it since it is so close! If you want to see a great organization, go check out Motivations at the Cara Program. Call them beforehand, however.
Though Cara is not officially a faith-based organization, it sure seems like one. I imagine Motivations being like a synagogue service in Capernaum with Jesus calling for the best of the human spirit. Cara’s mission is to bring forth the best in many women and men for whom life has been a real struggle. May this wonderful example of transformation remind us of the hopeful, life-giving spirit the Risen Lord wants to call forth from each one of us everyday. Let us stay Motivated and let us encourage each other on our daily journey.
Fr. Tom Hurley