Jesus, Stronger Than Evil
Judgment. It is an uneasy word. A discomforting possibility. Will it be a discomforting reality? The answer lies in us. The answer lies in our world. Our options are clear. We are facing the evil in ourselves and in the world. In a way we judge ourselves, we have to take a stand in the face of evil, in word and deed. And as believers we must also be conscious of our role of intercession, mediation, and reconciliation.
We see the mystery of evil alive also in the gospel. There are people, also religious people, who see the good works Jesus does, the signs that God’s kingdom is coming and yet do not accept him, reject him or remain neutral. Who is this man? Do we accept him as our Saviour? The more we share his life and become familiar with him, the more we will recognize that he is the Son of God, our friend, our Saviour. Happy the eyes that see. And he overcomes evil, also in us.
1 Reading: Joel1:13-15; 2:1-2
Gird yourselves and weep, O priests! wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! The house of your God is deprived of offering and libation. Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, Into the house of the LORD, your God, and cry to the LORD! Alas, the day! for near is the day of the LORD, and it comes as ruin from the Almighty. Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all who dwell in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom, a day of clouds and somberness! Like dawn spreading over the mountains, a people numerous and mighty! Their like has not been from of old, nor will it be after them, even to the years of distant generations.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 9:2-3, 6 and 16, 8-9
R. (9) The Lord will judge the world with justice.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will declare all your wondrous deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, Most High. R.
You rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
their name you blotted out forever and ever.
The nations are sunk in the pit they have made;
in the snare they set, their foot is caught. R.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has set up his throne for judgment.
He judges the world with justice;
he governs the peoples with equity. R.
Alleluia: John 12:31b-32
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The prince of this world will now be cast out,
and when I am lifted up from the earth
I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 11:15-26
When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd 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 armour on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. “When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Joel paints a very grim picture of the day of the Lord. Priests and temple attendants are in sackcloth in a temple where offering is no longer made. Darkness and punishment for the population is the order of the day, as retribution descends upon a people who for years have wandered far from their founding objective.
No greater insult could be hurled at Jesus than to accuse him of being an agent of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. This was nothing less than labeling good as evil. Jesus responds by presenting a dilemma. If he works for Beelzebul and at the same time works against him, how can Satan’s kingdom remain? But if Jesus works as an agent of God, then God’s kingdom is at hand.
Further insight into the problem of evil is attached at this point. It is good to be prepared and strongly fortified. But if a stronger one than the defendant appears, the defendant may well be overcome. Moreover, it is not wise to be overconfident. If your house is now well kept and in good condition, the unclean spirit may well return, this time with a coterie of companions. Then the situation will be worse than ever.
Beelzebul appears in many forms, and they prove to be very attractive. Today’s Gospel reminds us that we dare not be overconfident.
We are still fully human and may easily fall prey to evil designs. One may feel that his lofty objectives protect him or his service as a minister of the altar. But we have too many examples of serious falls to believe that anyone is exempt. Each day we pledge ourselves anew to our objective and then pray for God’s help to remain faithful. Of ourselves we are weak and profitless servants, but we can do all things in him who strengthens us.
A few days ago we heard Jesus say: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Yes, blessed are we that God has given us the grace of our faith, that we believe in Jesus, that we see also in all the good things that happen in our world through people who believe in him. May God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!