Friday, October 9, 2009

If It Is By The Finger Of God That I Cast Out Demons, Then The Kingdom Of God Has Come Upon You.

First Reading: Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2

Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come; spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God! For the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.

Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD!

Alas, that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand - a day of darkness and gloom, a somber and cloudy day.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.

Responsorial: Psalm 9

R. The Lord will judge the word with justice.

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. R.

You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The nations have sunk into a pit of their own making;
Their foot is caught in the snare they had set. R.

The LORD reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He will judge the world in justice;
he will govern the peoples with equity. R.


Gospel: Luke 11:15-26

In today’s Gospel Jesus had cast out a demon from a man who could not speak; when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. Some people in the crowd (in Matthew’s version of this incident, they were Pharisees) said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Beelzebub.” Beelzebub was a pagan deity, whose name became synonymous with Satan, prince of demons. Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a sign from heaven to prove his authority. If he could not, that would prove that his power was demonic, not divine.

Jesus knew their thoughts, and said, “A kingdom divided against itself is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. You say I get my power from Satan. But if Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom last? If it is by the power of Satan that I cast out demons, what about your own exorcists? They will be your judges. On the other hand, if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.

When a strong man is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But if someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, then strips him of his weapons, and carries away the spoils. Anyone who is not with me is against me. Whoever does not gather with me, scatters.

Whenever an unclean spirit leaves someone, it roams through the desert searching for rest. But if it finds none, it says, “I will go back to the person I came from.” But when it returns, it finds that its former home is swept clean and put in order. So, the spirit goes out and finds seven other spirits even more wicked than itself. They all move in an settle there, and the last condition of the person is worse than the first.

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The typical image of Hell is heat, but in ancient Ireland, it was cold. I suppose it depends on what part of the world you live in. But the worst cold is not related to climate, but is emotional and spiritual. AbbĂ© Huvelin, a spiritual writer of the 19th century, wrote, “The devil appeared to Saint Bridget, and she asked him ‘What is your name?’ ‘Cold itself!” he answered. It suits him much better than heat, since he is the prince of darkness, and he lacks every kind of love except self-love.

How could the people in the crowd imagine that Jesus was in league with Satan? The Pharisees were eager to silence him, and eventually, would have their way. They were never willing to enter the mystery; they were fleeing from it. Many explanations are just that: a flight from ignorance into greater ignorance. A false or shallow theory is a worse form of ignorance than a simple lack of knowledge. It is a defense against understanding. “I don’t know” is a perfectly honest and humble position; it is the ideal position from which learning begins. If only we could accept “I don’t know” fully, our minds would be as fresh as the minds of children, and we would learn as rapidly as they do.

Instead we clutter the path of knowledge with theories and explanations, which we mistake for knowledge. It’s full of danger, because it sometimes leads us, like that crowd long ago, to calling bad what is actually good. It is a very present danger: today you hear Christians denigrating other Christians because the other’s views are not an exact replica of their own. The implications are drastic: they are mistaking Jesus for Beelzebub.

Donagh O'Shea, O.P

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Useful demonology!
Satan's kindom is united in purpose and demons cooperate. This gives Satan's kingdom an advantage over human kingdoms, which tend to become disunited and crumble, even without any help from Satan!
A kingdom purged of spirits (like the modern West?) is an open invitation to party-minded demons. The indwelling strength of God is required to keep the house clean.