20 Mar 2022
The Gospel. St. Luke xi. 14.
Jesus was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
“He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils,” they said of Jesus. He responded, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth….But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you.” Who are the sort of people who don’t see the finger of God, His Holy Spirit, working among them? Scripture tells us of two types: the cynical and the blind. The latter type, having just seen a sign from God, ask Jesus for one! They are blind to what just happened. They are unimpressed with Jesus having cast out demons. The kingdom of Heaven has come close to them, but they cannot see it. Alas, they cannot see God’s hand at all.
But not all who reject Jesus do so because they fail to see the sign; some because of their distorted mindset misinterpret it. “He casts out demons by Beelzebub….” They know something extraordinary has happened in their lives, but give it the worst possible interpretation. They are so distorted in their vision that they see in the miracles of God, the face of evil! Jesus points out the absurdity of thinking evil would cast out evil. Evil and good are irreconcilable; what Jesus does point to is the final defeat of the powers of evil in our world and the coming of God’s reign.
You know the cynics will never acknowledge God’s goodness in our lives. A certain arrogance always goes with such cynicism. They recognize no evil in themselves, and it is almost impossible for them to see the good in others. They especially cannot see the goodness in what Jesus accomplished. One of the most dangerous and popular heresies today is the one that puts God far off and makes religion a strange, abnormal thing. But our everyday experience assures us of God’s nearness. Our worship is not for excitement or entertainment like the passions of today; it is our awareness of the very meaning of life in this world. It is our answer to its mystery and beauty. God is near us in all that is light, life, and love. He has made Himself known in His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Through Him He confronts our sins and consoles us if we ask for forgiveness. He is by our side in every step we take. We do not need a new sign: we just need to be able to look back and see the many signs God has already put into our lives.
So in the Gospel this Sunday, there is a picture of the housecleaning of our souls. At issue are two things: first, how are we going to clean up this mess? and second, what is our purpose? The point is that, without the Holy Spirit, our housecleaning will leave us truly empty and in despair. “And the last state of that man is worse than the first”.
The point is that the housecleaning of our souls is really about setting our houses in order so that our souls are places fit for God. At Holy Communion, there is a secret prayer said by the priest, “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under the roof of my soul, but speak but the word only, and my soul shall be healed.” Once we have made our soul a proper dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, then we are at home with God with ourselves and with one another. “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it”.
Our business - a kind of empty “busyness” - has to give place to a restfulness in God. Our “busyness” is really our restlessness for God. Without our awareness of our need for God, we are in danger of despair. In a way, the point is illustrated in another Gospel story, the story of Martha and Mary. Ultimately, the “busyness” of Martha has to be brought into the restfulness of Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his words.
“He who is not with Me is against Me.” There is no place for neutrals in the struggle between God and Satan. We should ask ourselves, “Am I on Christ’s side or not?” To be with Christ is to be a gatherer, a reconciler of people to God and to one another, a builder of unity and peace, and a creator of human good. To be against Him is to be a scatterer, a carrier of hatred and division, a destroyer. We cannot avoid being either one or the other in life. The human restless spirit is the search for the Master. If we do not find Him, we either resort to some anesthetic or we fall victim to a destructive idolatry.
Finally, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked.” But He said, “Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it!” Jesus corrects the woman from the crowd not by denouncing his mother, but by emphasizing his Mother’s faith. Jesus corrects by amplifying, not negating what was said here. And today we in the Anglican Church Worldwide are blessed in God’s eyes if we, like Mary, hear the word of God and keep it.
Source: The Third Sunday in Lent
Fr. David Curry
Christ Church Windsor NS, AD 2005
Bishop Edwin Tompkins