Thursday of the 3rd Week of Lent
Jesus and Beelzebul
Thomas Brooks has this to say about Satan. He says: “Satan promises the best but pays with the worst. He promises honor and pays with disgrace. He promises pleasure and pays with pain. He promises profit and pays with loss. He promises life and pays with death.”
Because of Jesus’ numerous healings and exorcisms to many people, these bring them freedom from troubles and oppression of evil spirits. But some of the Jewish leaders, in today’s gospel, react vehemently to Jesus’ healings and exorcisms and they oppose Him with malicious slander and resort to character assassination when honest opposition is hopeless. There is nothing as cruel and uncharitable as slander. They always tend to think the worst and very often people would prefer to hear the bad and the derogatory remarks rather than the good and complimentary story. Sometimes we are guilty of this particular sin too. How often do we deliberately repeat slanderous and malicious stories and murder reputations to someone whom we dislike over a cup of coffee?
The Jewish leaders ask: How can He get the power and authority to release individuals from Satan’s power? They assume that He has to be in league with Satan. They attribute His power to Satan rather than to God. But Jesus answers them with this smart statement: “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.” It is as if Jesus is saying to them: “Yes, one of your fingers is pointing on me but look, the other three fingers are pointing on you too.”
But I would like more to reflect about what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel reading. He says: “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters,” (v.23). With Jesus we cannot evade decision; we cannot remain noncommittal; we cannot protect ourselves against risks. Why? It is because there is a cosmic war that is going on between good and evil. In this kind of war we cannot remain neutral or noncommittal. If we refuse to side with God, it can mean, we accept or take side with Satan. Now we know that God will eventually win this war. And so, why we allow ourselves to be on the losing side? How to take side with God? It can be shown in this way:
First is through our obedience to Him. Jesus Himself encounters personal opposition and battles with Satan when He was put to the test in the wilderness just before His public ministry. But He overcomes the evil one through His obedience to the will of His Father. We can do the same. The call of obedience is disturbing since we human beings want freedom, choice and doing what feels good. And on the process, we misuse our freedom and choice. Sin enters and damages us spiritually. Therefore, we need obedience or relying on an authority outside of ourselves that guides us. We have to rely on God, His Word and Sacraments and the leaders He puts in charge of our lives.
Second is by loyalty to Him. I read this story of a young man in the army who made a confession to his compatriot that he never went about with another girl if he was within fifty miles of home, his loyalty went fifty miles away. How far does our loyalty to Jesus Christ go?