October 10, 2008
Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
As a kid I was always a bit terrified of passages where Jesus would talk about demons. The thought of such things scurrying about the place was very unsettling. Today's Gospel text was one of those texts that troubled me. My childhood understanding saw dark ominous beings but today I view this text in a much more encouraging way.
We can read this text as one where Jesus is merely giving a lesson on demonology or we can see how we might just fit the place of those in the crowd who condemned Jesus' actions. How is it we might do that today?
Jesus responds to someone referring to him as an agent of Beelzebul, a Philistine god whose name later became used for Lucifer, aka. Satan. They weren't real sure that they could trust Jesus so they labeled him a demonic force. Jesus' response is brilliant. He launches into the deep discourse on how a house divided cannot stand. For a house divided, engaged in internal warfare can only meet with destruction. So
how could a demon be fighting against a demon? It just couldn't be because it would be assured destruction.
Jesus then uses a phrase that traces back to the Book of Exodus. The "finger of God" refers to Pharaohs magicians recognizing that God's true power was at work in Moses. Jesus is explaining that his actions are from his Father and that there is no division. All that Jesus does is in God's name and is the true expression of God's power and love at work.
I was reflecting on this passage in light of an event I witnessed a couple of weeks ago. Tempers are rising with the economic meltdown and upcoming elections. People are becoming further divided and mean. I was in a store recently where an individual began yelling at another shopper who had a button that was for the candidate she did not like. Apparently this person felt it was his right to verbally harass the other shopper. Many of us were stunned at the venom that came out. After things settled down and we had all checked out, I noticed this individual and the car he was driving. Right on the bumper was a "WWJD" bumper sticker. I was rooted to the spot. I asked myself, what would Jesus do? The answer I received back was that Jesus does anything but what we do. We know what Jesus would do but we seem unwilling at times to do it.
A house divided? If the Church is divided then it will not stand! How can a self professing Christian spew words of hatred and violence and then claim to be a messenger of God's love and peace? I then reflected on my own actions and began to ponder how I can at times be divided. If I let venom and anger seep into me and I express that then I become a member of a divided spiritual household. If we as Christians proclaim God's love in one breath and then turn and breathe words of hatred, violence and sin then we have already divided, separated ourselves from God's Kingdom and our house, our Church will not stand.
Jesus' words in today's Gospel have been lingering with me for the past couple of days. As things become more tense in our world, country, neighborhoods and houses we run the risk of becoming a source of division when what is needed is Jesus' message of love, peace and salvation to be proclaimed with joy. There is enough hatred in this world to destroy it many times over. As the Body of Christ we have the responsibility and privilege to be a source of unity. We have the honor to create peace instead of war. We have the joy of reaching out to those we may not agree with and be the voice of Jesus to them. We are the Body of Christ. Anything we do that promotes despair, anger, violence or hatred is a sign that we have separated ourselves from Jesus and we have divided our house, the Church.
When we have successfully divided God's House of Prayer, we allow the infestation to begin. We create demons out of self. I'm not talking about the type of demons we see on TV shows or in movies. I am talking about turning our lives into something that is displeasing to Jesus and assures that God will seek out someone else to share in His ministry. When that happens all we have left is our own desire and self seeking egos and we have then fully stripped Jesus out of our lives. Jesus weeps.
I have included the final verses of 27 and 28. Why? Well Jesus ends this scene with a very powerful word. Jesus says, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" What good news! It is so simple but we insist on making it hard. If we profess to be a disciple then we better be one. If we have received God's great gift of salvation, then we better live as one who is saved. If we profess that God is love, then we better be loving. You get the picture.
God is love. God is our Lord. God sent his only Son so that we may live. God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. So many gifts! We have the best possible life in Jesus Christ so why do we seek out the darkness instead of the light? Life is far too short to waste it with fighting and division. What a waste to be given the fullness of life only to seek the despair of division which leads to spiritual death. Politics and the economy are not our god. Our honor is to worship the True God and transform the world by being faithful to His Law of Love.
God bless you all and be careful out there. Always remember that Jesus loves you and wants us to live as God's blessed children.