Monday, January 22, 2018
1) Opening prayer
All-powerful and ever-living God,
direct Your love that is within us,
that our efforts in the name of Your Son
may bring the human race to unity and peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 3:22-30
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons." Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
• The conflict grows. In the Gospel of Mark there is a progressive sequence. By the measure in which the Good News advances and people accept it, in the same measure it grows resistance on the part of the religious authority. The conflict began to grow and to influence all groups of people. For example, the relatives of Jesus thought that He was out of His mind. (Mk 3:20-21), and the scribes who had come from Jerusalem thought that He was possessed, that Beelzebul was in Him (Mk 3:22).
• The conflict with authority. The scribes slandered against Him. They said that Beelzebul was in Him and that it was through the prince of devils that He drove out the devils. They had come from Jerusalem, about 120 kilometers away, to keep an eye on Jesus’ behavior. They wanted to defend tradition against the new ideas that Jesus taught to the people (Mk 7:1). They thought that His teaching was against good doctrine. The response given by Jesus had three parts.
- First Part: The comparison with a divided family. Jesus uses the comparison of the divided family and the divided kingdom to denounce the absurdity of the slander. To say that Jesus casts out or drives out the devils with the help of the prince of the devils is to deny what is evident. It is like saying that water is dry, and that the sun is darkness. The doctors of Jerusalem slandered because they did not know how to explain the benefits worked by Jesus on behalf of the people. They were afraid to lose their power.
- Second Part: The comparison of the strong man. Jesus compares the devil to a strong man. Nobody, unless he is a strong person, will be able to take away the house from a strong man to rob it. Jesus is the strongest of all. And this is why He succeeds in entering the house and in dominating and overcoming the strong man. He succeeds in driving out the devils. Jesus wins over the strong man and robs his house. He liberates the people who were under the power of the evil one. The Prophet Isaiah had already used the same comparison to describe the coming of the Messiah (Is 49:24-25). Luke adds that the expulsion of the devil is the evidence of the coming of the Kingdom (Lk 11:20).
- Third part: The sin against the Holy Spirit. All sins are forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Spirit. Which is the sin against the Holy Spirit? It is to say, “The spirit which impels Jesus to cast out or drive out the devil, comes precisely from the devil!” The one who speaks in this way is incapable of receiving pardon. Why? Can the one who covers his eyes guess? He cannot! The one who closes his mouth, can he eat? He cannot. The one who does not close the umbrella of slander, can he receive the rain of pardon? He cannot! Pardon would pass by his side but would not reach him. It is not that God does not want to forgive. God always wants to forgive. But it is the sinner who refuses to receive pardon!
4) Personal questions
• The religious authorities close themselves up in themselves and deny the evidence. Has this ever happened to me, that I close myself off before the evidence or facts?
• Slander is the arm or weapon of the weak. Have you experienced this?
5) Concluding prayer
The whole wide world has seen the saving power of our God.
Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98:3-4)