An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. "It is like two dogs fighting inside of us," the chief told them. "There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and right is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight."
"Who is going to win in the end?" a young brave asks.
"The one you feed," the chief answered.
Since for both kings and priests, authority was based on an inherited status, they often became unresponsive to people’s needs. This is one of the main reasons why prophets were needed. Prophets would not inherit their status but would be appointed by God to bring newness and revolution into the lives of people. They would be charismatic and would preach what God commanded them to preach. To some, it seems that they were self appointed. This is why they had to have a strong local following in order to limit or even nullify any attempt to thwart their message. Moses tells the people that the prophet, whom God will raise, will be like him and from among them. This will ensure that their teachings will accord with the teachings of Moses and will be for the benefit of the people even though, at times, the words they would speak would not be easy to digest.
The Gospel text of today narrates that Moses’ prophesy was fulfilled in the most perfect of ways in Jesus. It is significant that, even before Jesus can begin his public ministry, Mark contrasts his teachings with that of the scribes. Though the content is not explicated, it is clear that the teaching of Jesus is a teaching based, not on learning as that of the scribes was but, on an experience, and that he believed that his authority came directly from God, as is evident when he comes into Galilee proclaiming the “good news of God” (1:14). This “teaching” is then shown, in action, in the exorcism that follows, which is the first miracle that Jesus works in the Gospel of Mark. Through this, the authority of Jesus is demonstrated. The demon also recognizes the authority of Jesus and regards him as superior. The demon knows that Jesus has been divinely ordained and set apart by God. As “prophet” of God, Jesus utters a commanding word and subdues the demon. The demon obeys the command and leaves the man. The crowd’s response indicates how authoritative is Jesus’ teaching. With just a word from Jesus, the demon is subdued. The coming of Jesus, as “prophet” of God, signals the end of all satanic and demonic forces.
The demonic forces that Jesus subdued in his time continue to raise their ugly heads, again and again. They take a variety of forms. The recent financial crisis, from which the whole world is still reeling, and because of which, many have lost their hard earned money, strikes terror in various parts of the world. The fact that so many, in so many places, go hungry when the world has enough, and more, for all. The environmental degradation and abuse are striking examples, in our day, of these demonic forces. One response that we might be tempted to give is to lay the blame for the present situation in our world at God’s door. Since Jesus could exorcise demons at will, what is preventing him from doing sp now? Is not God concerned about the plight of so many suffering? Why does he not act? This, however, is not an adult response. We have to realize that the demons that are rearing their ugly heads are not willed by God but are a creation of our own selfishness and self-centeredness. If we keep feeding the “bad dog” as we seem to want to do, then it will keep winning. To be sure, the coming of Jesus has meant that Satan’s rule is at an end, but for this to become a reality today; we have to collaborate with Jesus in wanting to exorcise those demons.
We can do this, no matter in what state of life we are, if we like Paul and have the best interests of others at heart. If we too, like him, want to promote what is good and pleasing to the Lord, then the demons can once again be subdued and God’s power can be seen at work in the world again, like it was in Jesus’ time. Then, the “good dog” will win.