But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.“ When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
One of the most often asked daily questions is: “How are you doing?” And the most usual response is “I’m good” or “I’m fine.” We seem to ask and answer this question so often that there is little meaning in these exchanges. We are busy people and we do want to engage people in a friendly way, but we may not feel we have the time to express our true feelings or also have the time to really listen. Personally, whenever I use my default answer “I’m good”, what I really mean to say is “I feel the crushing weight of the world coming down upon me and I am grateful to God for helping me hold it all together.” (Well, mostly that’s a Monday response.) More to the point, I tend to hold onto the baggage in my day; I disregard my emotions or I dismiss them altogether; and I withhold these things from friends and family. When I act in this way an accumulation begins to happen, and it is not with the things that God desires for me.
This is the predicament of the man we find in today’s gospel. In this extreme case we see that what has accumulated has also possessed. In a display of compassion and power, Christ empties the unholy mess of spirit and desire that has accumulated within the man. This is the same healing love we encounter in the sacrament of reconciliation. We reconcile ourselves to Christ. We empty ourselves of our own will so that the Holy Spirit may dwell in that place. It will always be this ongoing process of accumulation, emptying, and reconciliation that defines what it means to be in relationship with God. We may lack the stamina to continually ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but God never tires from granting it because it is God’s favorite thing to do.
So I ask you on this Friday in the 27th week in Ordinary Time, “How are you doing?” If there’s a deeper movement than the normal, share it with our Lord in your prayers. Or possibly, it may be time to re-enter the holy ground of the confessional?
—Richard Schuckman, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago
Lord, let the words of Saint Ignatius guide me as I journey through this day. Let me commit his words to my soul and let me wait with great expectations for the graces I will receive.
I pray, Lord, that my “only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.”
—Saint Ignatius of LoyolaPlease share the Good Word with your friends!