Monday, January 23, 2017
1) Opening prayer
All-powerful and ever-living God,
direct your love that is within us,
that our efforts in the name of your Son
may bring mankind to unity and peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 3,22-30
The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, 'Beelzebul is in him,' and, 'It is through the prince of devils that he drives devils out.'
So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, 'How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never last. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot last either -- it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man's house and plunder his property unless he has first tied up the strong man. Only then can he plunder his house. 'In truth I tell you, all human sins will be forgiven, and all the blasphemies ever uttered; but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.' This was because they were saying, 'There is an unclean spirit in him.'
• The conflict grows. In the Gospel of Mark there is a progressive sequence. In the measure in which the Good News advances and people accept it, in the same measure grows also the resistance on the part of the religious authority. The conflict began to grow and to influence all the groups of persons. For example, the relatives of Jesus thought that he was out of his mind. (Mk 3, 20-21), and the Scribes who had come from Jerusalem thought that he was possessed, that Beelzebul was in him (Mk 3, 22).
• The conflict with the authority. The Scribes slandered against him. They said that Beelzebul was in him and that it was through the prince of devils that he drove out the devils. They had come from Jerusalem, about 120 kilometres distance, to keep an eye on or watch Jesus’ behaviour. They wanted to defend tradition against the novelty that Jesus taught to the people (Mk 7, 1). They thought that his teaching was against the good doctrine. The response given by Jesus had three parts.
- First Part: The comparison with a divided family. Jesus uses the comparison of the divided family and of the divided kingdom to denounce the absurdity of the slander. To say that Jesus casts out or drives out the devils with the help of the prince of the devils is to deny the evidence, what is evident. It is like saying that water is dry, and that the sun is darkness. The doctors of Jerusalem slandered, because they did not know how to explain the benefits worked by Jesus in behalf of the people. They were afraid to lose their leadership.
- Second Part: The comparison of the strong man. Jesus compares the devil to a strong man. Nobody, unless he is a strong person, will be able to take away the house from a strong man, to rob it. Jesus is the strongest of all. And this is why he succeeds to enter the house and to dominate and overcome the strong man. He succeeds in driving out the devils. Jesus wins over the strong man and robs his house, that is, he liberates the persons who were under the power of the evil one. The Prophet Isaiah had already used the same comparison to describe the coming of the Messiah (Is 49, 24-25). Luke adds that the expulsion of the devil is an evident sign of the coming of the Kingdom (Lk 11, 20).
- Third part: The sin against the Holy Spirit. All sins are forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Spirit. Which is the sin against the Holy Spirit? It is to say: “The spirit which impels Jesus to cast out or drive out the devil, comes precisely from the devil!” The one who speaks in this way is incapable to receive pardon. Why? Can the one who covers his eyes guess? He cannot! The one who closes his mouth, can he eat? He cannot. The one who does not close the umbrella of slander, can he receive the rain of pardon? He cannot! Pardon would pass by his side but would not reach him. It is not that God does not want to forgive. God always wants to forgive. But it is the sinner who refuses to receive pardon!
4) Personal questions
• The religious authorities close themselves up in themselves and deny the evidence. Has this ever happened to me, that I close myself in self before the evidence of facts?
• Slander is the arm or weapon of the weak. Have you had experience on this point?
5) Concluding prayer
The whole wide world has seen the saving power of our God.
Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98,3-4)