3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, March 11
Jeremiah 7:23-28 / Luke 11:14-23
People misjudge Jesus; "He drives out devils by Beelzebul."
As a hobby, an elderly couple raised vegetables and kept chickens.Since they were frugal, they weren't hurting financially. Yet whenever someone came to them to buy fresh vegetables or fresh eggs, the couple always charged the full market price. They gave no discount, not even to their closest friends and neighbors. This earned them the reputation, among some people, of being miserly. Later it was discovered that the couple gave all the proceeds from the sale of the vegetables and eggs to two poor families living nearby.
Do we sometimes tend to jump to conclusions about the actions and motives of other people? "He who judges others condemns himself." English proverb
“Listen to my voice,” says God through his prophet Jeremiah, and then he complains that God’s people fail to listen: they listen to themselves and follow their own ways. Their deeds do not speak the language of God. They do not follow God.
In the gospel Jesus cures the man who was mute. Worse than anyone who is deaf and mute and blind are those who do not want to hear and see, or to speak with sincerity. They do not follow Jesus. Their hearts are divided.
Before our baptism we were, in a sense, like the mute in today’s gospel. We were freed from the power of the devil by the grace of our baptism. Jesus warns however that the devil is strong, and that if we are not constantly on our guard, he will overpower us. The devil we rejected in our baptism is insidious and persistent in trying to claim us for himself. Our only defense is to fill the void left by the devil with the love of God and the neighbor.
The devil these days uses many different weapons in the hope of destroying Christian love in our hearts. One is rugged (a) individualism, which in its false independence and pride refuses to see the necessity of depending on God for anything.
Another is (b) materialism, which considers the accumulation of possessions and power as the goal of life, and not the love of God. Still a third weapon is (c) indifference, which makes the Christian either unaware of the needs of others, or unconcerned with helping to meet those needs. Last to be mentioned hele is the subtle yet extremely effective weapon of (d) smug complacency, which makes the Christian feel, as did the people addressed in today's first lesson, that simply because he is baptized and has the faith his eternal salvation is assured, and that nothing more need be done except to fufill the mere letter of the law. This last weapon is frequently the first to be used by the devil to get his foot in the door.
The history of our world is to a large extent the story of war, lust, greed, and selfishness. What is behind it all? Today's gospel, as well as much of sacred scripture, implies that it is the devil. Many people say that believing that there is a devil is naive and childish, but the truth is that not accepting the reality of the devil is naive and childish. The Bible teaches that there are intelligent, highly powerful forces for evil in the world, known as devils. That teaching is in accord with reality.
Look at Nazism and all its horrors: millions of people exterminated. How could any human being ever wish such evil? Adolf Hitler was no doubt insane, but maybe part of the cause of his insanity was the power of Satan. Communism began with a certain sincerity and good intention on the part of Marx and Lenin, but how did it become such a monster today?
The devil puts ideas into people's heads under the guise that the ideas represent freedom and goodness. Look at the attack on human life in the movements for abortion, euthanasia, and compulsory sterilization. Or look at the blows dealt to human dignity in today's sexual revolution: premarital sex, wife swapping, the disintegration of marriage and the family.
Christianity does not mean no fun; it is not a religion for prudes, such as the scribes and the Pharisees in the gospel who were just waiting for Christ to do something wrong so that they could pounce on him. But we must make no mistake about the fact that there is a war going on, a war between good and evil, between Christ and the devil. We must take sides: for Christ.
Lord our God, you ask of us not so much that we observe certain practices but that our hearts are turned to you. God, may we do your will in everything, loyally and generously, as Jesus did, your Son, who did your will because he loved you and who lives therefore with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen