“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Jesus heals a man who is described as deaf and dumb by casting out his demons. This amazes some, but it scares others. You could say it puts the fear of God into them. But they don’t know how to react. So they scorn Jesus. They accuse him of working for Beelzebub, and by asking him to prove himself. As if performing an exorcism isn’t proof enough.
This question arises a few times throughout the Gospels. On whose authority does Jesus act? How is he able to perform miracles, heal, exorcise demons, etc.? We know his authority comes from God the Father. We know that Christ is his only begotten Son. Son of God, truly man, yet truly God. However, the crowds who witnessed these miracles first-hand weren’t always privy to such information. Some believed when they saw him; some had faith without even seeing his signs; others, however, doubted and cursed him.
Some of them were just not open to his mercy. They were full of resentment, jealousy, bitterness and envy. They were prideful, and this prevented them from seeing Jesus as Christ, from receiving the Word of God. When they should have praised him or dropped to their knees and worshipped him, instead, they challenged him. They would rather believe in the devil than submit to Jesus.
Jesus refutes the hostile accusers. If he was working for Satan, why would he be casting out Satan’s demons? Would that not undermine his authority? Jesus says he exorcises demons by the finger of God – the Holy Spirit – because God’s kingdom is undivided and eternal. If the Holy Spirit is the finger of God, Christ is the right hand of God the Father, and he came to bring in the kingdom of God, “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” he says.
Jesus had to overcome the devil in the testament we heard last week when he gave Christ an opportunity to bypass his death and resurrection, to claim power and glory without bearing his cross. Christ refused and refuted the devil. Now we hear people believe Christ is in league with the devil, and he has to refute them, too. He reminds us that “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided house falls” not just to let us know he is not a demon dividing Satan’s kingdom but to remind us that we are all invited to God’s kingdom, but we must be united behind him.
It is an important reminder today when we see Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, and us Anglicans all bickering with each other, against each other, and even among ourselves. The only ones standing firm, as far as I can see, are the Eastern Orthodox. The Methods have fallen to the ways of the world; the English Anglicans have done the same, and the German Catholics are right behind them. We were told to stay united. We were told to stand firm in the faith. The longer it has been since his birth, ministry, death and resurrection, the further divided we become. It is like when your parents go out and leave you instructions to behave; you follow their instructions for a while, but the longer they’re out of the house, the more daring you become. Is that us? Of course, Christ hasn’t left us, he is always with us, and he sent his Holy Spirit to be our mediator and advocate, but we have to remind ourselves of his presence, otherwise, we become those petulant unsupervised children, causing havoc in his house. This is why the Eucharist is so important because it is when we are closest to Christ, when we partake in his everlasting sacrifice in praise and glory.
Our souls are described as vacant houses. If we leave them empty, undesirable tenants will occupy it. We have seen this first hand, our rectory has been left empty for too long, and undesirables have essentially taken it over. It was prophesied this would happen. And it happens to us, too. We must fill our souls with the love of Christ. We must pray to God to fill us with his grace and let his will be done. It is no accident this story immediately follows the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches his disciples to ask God the Father, “thy will be done.” Our souls can either be occupied by demonic influence or Godly goodness. We do have a say in the matter.
In our Baptism, we are cleansed of our sins, and the house is swept clean. In the Holy Communion, we allow God to fill our souls with heavenly goods. He decorates and furnishes us, so to speak, with his life-sustaining grace. In prayer, we welcome his Spirit to dwell within our hearts, filling us with charity. All we need to do is ask. Ask, and ye shall receive.
A woman in the crowd yells “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breast that you sucked!” and it is not clear if she was complimenting Mary, or attempting to make a witty insult. But she was right, and Jesus adds to this beatitude, telling her Mary is blessed also because she received the Word of God. She accepted Christ in her heart, not just in her flesh. We can be blessed in the same way; those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as the living Word of God will be blessed. By hearing his word and worshiping the one true God, he blessed us.
We learn this through Our Lady’s prayer; feel free to join in if you know the words, but by no means feel you must: Hail Mary…