Friday of Week 27 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 11:15-26

As said by the prophet Jeremiah:

Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear.
(Jer 5:21)

In today’s passage Jesus frees a person from enslavement to an evil power which had rendered him mute, so that he could not speak (in Matthew’s version of this story, the man is also blind). As Christians, many of us can suffer from the same evil influence when we refuse or are afraid to acknowledge openly our Christian faith. We hide and we remain silent, especially when the values we hold are attacked or ridiculed. Once liberated, the man could speak and he did so, much to the amazement of the crowd. Let us, too, pray for this gift of speech, to be able to say the right thing at the right time.

But there were those present who accused Jesus of using the demon’s power to drive out the evil spirit. At the same time, in spite of the extraordinary signs that Jesus was initiating on almost a daily basis – including the one they had just witnessed which caused such astonishment among the people – his enemies asked him for a sign from God.

There is a clear gap between the leaders and the people here. While the leaders keep asking Jesus for his credentials, the people are shown as constantly praising and thanking God for all that is being done among them through Jesus.

Jesus then shows the self-contradictions in his opponents’ charges. A kingdom that is split by internal rivalries cannot survive. Why would evil spirits attack each other and so frustrate their goals? And, Jesus says to his accusers:

Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out?…But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

When people are liberated from the control of evil spirits, that is a sure sign that the loving power of God is at work. Any other interpretation does not make sense. And the ‘kingdom of God’ is personified and embodied in Jesus himself. It will also become present in his disciples who do his work.

And Jesus goes on to give another image. A strong man guarding his house and possessions remains undisturbed until someone stronger comes and overthrows him. That is clearly what is happening. Jesus is the stronger one and the evil spirits are being driven away by him. They are helpless before him. This liberation of people and society from evil powers is one of the most dramatic proofs that the all-powerful reign of God is present in the person of Jesus. What further signs could be asked for?

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

There can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned. We have to make our choice – for him or against. Not to choose is itself a choice – against him. Compare this with the similar but actually quite different saying with one we saw earlier:

…for whoever is not against you is for you. (Luke 9:50)

This was in the context of the Apostle John complaining that he saw a man cast out demons in Jesus’ name. In so far as that nameless person was doing Jesus’ work and doing it in Jesus’ name, he was with Jesus. That surely has implications for the many good things that non-Catholics and others who are not Christians at all are doing.

And this saying about the non-acceptance of neutrality leads to another warning. It is not enough to have been liberated from the power of an evil (“unclean”) spirit. Otherwise this “unclean spirit” may:

…’return to my house from which I came’. When it returns, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself…

The end result is that:

…they enter and live there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.

No, instead, the emptiness left by the departure of the evil spirit has to be actively filled with the Spirit of Jesus.

Was Jesus referring to some of the people around him? Especially his critics, who by their meticulous observance of the Law, saw themselves as morally blameless, but in whose lives the positive presence of the Spirit, as exemplified in Jesus himself, was totally absent? 

This is something we need to reflect on with regard to our use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is easy to use the sacrament to get the forgiveness of our past sins and leave it at that. To have the feeling of now having a clean slate.  Nature may abhor a vacuum but the devil loves one!

The true reconciliation that the sacrament calls for, even demands, a new and stronger commitment to the living of our Christian life. The sacrament is intended to be an experience of conversion and change. It is much more concerned with the future than with the past.  The past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. The present is in our hands and that is where we meet God.

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