[Homily. Mark 3:22-30. Assumption Chapel. Jan 27, 2020.]
We continue with our contemplations of Jesus Christ in Ordinary Time. We continue to watch Jesus preach, heal and liberate, continuing to beg for the grace that we get to know Jesus more intimately.
Mark’s Gospel moves very fast. Jesus has been clearly distinguished from John the Baptist. Upon accepting John’s baptism to show his solidarity with persons in need of reconciliation with God and one another, the heavens open and the Father addresses him as his beloved Son. From then on he preaches, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” He must have been a spellbinding presence, for when he called apostles like Simon and Andrew, James and John, they left all to follow him. Mark says people were “astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.” After all, he spoke as God’s beloved Son. He had enough authority to rebuke evil spirits, to exorcise them from the persons they possessed. He had enough power to heal not only the mother-in-law of Simon, but the many sick and demon-possessed who had been brought to him from far and wide. Yet even as he healed he was driven to move into the next towns to teach, where he again met people needing healing, like the leper who said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” But in all this, Jesus encountered opposition. In Capernaum, when a paralytic was lowered from the rooftop, they challenged his power to forgive sins. He was criticized for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, then for allowing his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath, and for doing good to people on the Sabbath. For all these disruptive actions, the Pharisees were already plotting to destroy him. Yet he continued to heal and to free people of the demons that possessed them.
It is in this context that in our Gospel reading for today Jesus is accused of casting out demons with demons. “He is possessed by Beelzebub,” the scribes charge. “By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” Jesus responds, “How can Satan cast out Satan? A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. A house divided against itself cannot stand. It is wrong therefore that you attribute my work of healing and exorcism to the devil. That is blasphemous. The work of God is not the work of the devil. The work of God, motived by compassion and love, which includes the forgiveness of sins, proceeds through the Spirit. In believing that his work is the work of the devil, you deprive yourself of the Spirit who can correct your error and forgive your sin.” That is why Jesus warned, “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is subject to eternal condemnation.”
Perhaps this is an opportunity to know Jesus more intimately. We notice how he is not divided against himself in accomplishing his mission, even as forces in the world would like to divide him against himself, and even we know from the Gospel that he was tempted to such division. He knows he is for the people. He teaches them. He serves them. He forgives their sins, even when for this he is attacked. He eats with sinners and tax collectors and people genuinely wrestling with life before their God, even when there are those who would like to reserve him for the holy, the scribes, the Pharisees and the hypocrites of our world. He teaches that the Sabbath is made for the people, and not the people for the Sabbath. For this, they wanted to kill him.
Jesus oneness with himself was real only because he was one with his Father. The way he treated the ignorant, the poor, the sick, the sinners was one with the will of the Father, just as the way he expelled demons for people with consistent with his and his Father’s Love for the victimized people. It was that Love, that Spirit, which drove the evil demons out of the people and made him teach, as a criterion for salvation, that whatever we do for the least of our sisters and brothers, that we do to him.
Coming to get to know Jesus in this manner may allow us also to get to know ourselves better in the same way. Are we one with ourselves, one with Jesus, one with his Father and his Spirit? Or, in a world of self-interest, greed, power, pleasure, and pride, are we a kingdom divided against ourselves?