Thursday, March 16, 2023

Gospel Reflection Luke 11:14-23

In today’s Gospel reading, we learn about how our enemy, the prince of demons (and lord of flies) operates. Satan’s imperative is to scatter and divide. Jesus is accused of being in league with Satan. But Jesus shows the absurdity of this accusation. Satan and his minions would not be able to accomplish much at all if they were not working in concert with one another. Satan would have no reason to cast one of his own out of a person. By definition, exorcisms are counterproductive to Satanic ends. So, Jesus reasons, if it is by being on the side of Satan that demons are cast out, then other Jewish exorcists must also be on that side. They cannot have it both ways. 

One is either on the side of God or on the side of Satan. The occasion of the exorcism is just one means of demonstrating this fact. If you want to see the demon expelled, you are on the side of God; Satan wants the demon to stay. You cannot invoke Satan against himself. The demon comes out unwillingly by the power of God, so any genuine exorcism is as Jesus says “by the finger of God.” Note that by “being on the side of Satan”, I do not mean being “Satanic’ necessarily in the sense we usually think of in ritual or deed. Yet Jesus is very clear that there is a kingdom of darkness, an order or way of doing things that are ordered against the divine will. The Kingdom of God is a broad term that contemplates an order toward the ultimate good and happiness, a way of doing things, conduct, worship, and life, that has union with God as its end. 

Returning to the passage, we see there is an order of power at work in the exorcism. The weak are overtaken by the strong. Given the creaturely state we occupy, we are quite powerless by our own nature against any spiritual being, like a demon. This is principally why, in spiritual battle, we must put on the armor of God (per Ephesians 6). We do not stand a chance any other way. Jesus tells even St. Peter that Satan would sift him like wheat were it not for the Lord’s intercession. In the absence of divine help, in the form of angelic intervention, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so forth, the stronger will bind the weaker. We cannot but receive the grace and mercy of God, looking to diving strength to drive back the powers of darkness that assail us. 

The primary focus of Satan’s activity is to scatter and divide. This is why he is called ‘diabolical’ from the Greek word diabolos, which is to accuse or slander. When we are accused and slandered, we are divided from others and God. The accusations cut us off from ourselves (causing doubt, insecurity, rationalization, and defensiveness, among other things). Satan seeks to ultimately cut us off from God, the source of life. It is more than fair to say Satan wants us dead. 

Jesus, the Incarnate Word, God among us, came to give life abundantly. To restore creation. To take away the sin of the world and any basis for accusation or slander from the evil one. Jesus gathers us, like the Good Shepherd. He grafts us onto the vine of life. This is why the Spirit of Christ is one of peace, harmony, and unity. The divisions we erect among and between ourselves, the radical individualism of ‘my way’ is the way of Satan. The enemy scatters and destroys; Jesus collects and puts back together. Demon possession cuts people off from themselves and from their people, it puts the poor soul on an island with no food or water. Jesus rescues from that island of death, restoring the person to community with others, and God. Jesus' earthly ministry involved many exorcisms, and we should see these as a profound sign of His divine sonship and a powerful move of the inbreaking Kingdom of God. 

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