Thursday, March 8, 2018
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
many of us never had it so good
and so we have become smug and self-satisfied,
happy in our own little world.
God, may our ears remain open to Your word
and our hearts to You
and to our brothers and sisters.
Do not allow us to forget You,
or to place our trust in ourselves.
Make us restless for You
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 11:14-23
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, "By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons." Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."
• Today’s Gospel is that of Luke. We already meditated on the parallel text in Mark (Mk 3:22-27) during January.
• Luke 11:14-16: The diverse reactions before the expulsion of a devil. Jesus had expelled a devil which was mute. The expulsion produced two different reactions. On the one side, the crowd of people who remain astonished and surprised. The people accept Jesus and believe in Him. On the other side, those who do not accept Jesus and do not believe in Him. Among the latter, some said that Jesus cast out devils in the name of Beelzebul, the prince of devils, and others wanted a sign from heaven. Mark says that it was a question of the Scribes who had come from Jerusalem (Mk 3:22), who were not in agreement with the liberty of Jesus. They wanted to defend tradition against the message of Jesus.
• Luke 11:17-22: Jesus’ answer is divided into three parts:
1st part: Comparison with a divided kingdom. (11:17-18a) Jesus denounces the absurdity of the calumny of the Scribes. To say that he casts out devils with the help of the prince of devils means to deny the evidence. It is the same thing as saying that water is dry and that the sun is darkness. The doctors of Jerusalem slandered Him because they did not know how to explain the benefits which Jesus accomplished for the people. They were afraid to lose their position of leadership. They felt threatened in their authority before the people.
2nd part: through whom do your own sons drive them out?
(11:18b-20) Jesus provokes the accusers and asks, “But if it is through Beelzebul that I drive out devils, in whose name do your disciples drive them out? Let them respond and explain themselves! If I drive out the devil through the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has indeed caught you unawares.”
3rd part: when someone stronger than himself attacks and defeats him, the stronger one takes away all weapons. (11:21-22) Jesus compares the devil to a strong man. Nobody, except a stronger person, can rob the house of a strong man: Jesus is the strongest. This is why He succeeds in entering the house and in getting hold of the strong man. He succeeds in driving out the devils. Jesus seizes the strong man and now robs his house, that is, He liberates the people who were under the power of evil. The Prophet Isaiah had used the same comparison to describe the coming of the Messiah (Is 49:24-25). This is why Luke says that the expulsion of the devil is an obvious sign that the Kingdom of God has arrived.
• Luke 11:23: Anyone who is not with Me is against Me. Jesus ends His response with this sentence: “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me. And anyone who does not gather in with Me throws away.” On another occasion, also regarding the expulsion of a devil, the disciples prevented a man from using the name of Jesus to drive out the devil because he was not one of their group. Jesus answered, “You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you!” (Lk 9:50). These two declarations seem to be contradictory, but they are not. The sentence in today’s Gospel is directed to the enemies who have a prejudice against Jesus: “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me. And anyone who does not gather in with Me throws away.” The prejudice and the lack of acceptance make dialogue impossible and break the union. The other sentence is addressed to the disciples who thought they had the monopoly on Jesus. “Anyone who is not against you is for you!” Many people who are not Christian practice love, goodness, justice, many times in a much better way than Christians. We must not exclude them. They are brothers and workers in the construction of the Kingdom. We Christians are not Jesus’ owners. On the contrary, Jesus is our Lord!
4) Personal questions
• To be “with Me” or “against Me” can become a complex question. At what point in belief or action would a person move from being “with” to “against” Jesus and his message?
• “Do not stop him, because anyone who is not against you is for you!” How does this apply to the various Christian interpretations of Jesus’ message today?
5) Concluding Prayer
Come, let us cry out with joy to Yahweh,
acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving,
acclaim Him with music. (Ps 95:1-2)