Ever get that feeling that there are things going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Not like in a conspiracy theory kind of way…well, maybe in a conspiracy kind of way but anyway. A couple of my favorite TV shows of all time have kind of been all about things going on that are unseen; ‘24’ and ‘Blacklist.’
I loved ’24.’ It was all about this guy that worked for a secretive governmental group called CTU. Their whole job was to stop terrorist threats against the United States and be clandestine in the doing of it. And there was always some nefarious plot against the country that was saved in the last possible second. It had a very human side to it as well, dealing with the emotional and psychological fall out of the daily grind of dealing with the darkest side of humanity.
There are things going on in the spiritual realm that we don’t see either. Now, you may not believe that. If you don’t, I’m not really sure what to tell you. I submit to you that if you don’t believe that there are spiritual forces at work in the world today, then you are simply not paying attention and/or you are not Christian. As St. Paul reminds us,
“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
We are at war. It is a mostly silent war but it nonetheless very real. I feel like, these days, it is becoming much more evident. In Jesus’ days on earth, that war became front and center. We see, in our gospel reading today, Jesus in open conflict with Satan and the demonic forces at work in the world.
Our readings today:
Gospel: Luke 11:14-28
Epistle: Ephesians 5:1-9
In Jesus’ day, the hidden warfare that for so long had dominated human history came into sight. In our text today, we see this right out of the gate, so to speak. Satan is the “god of this world.” For reasons we can’t fully comprehend, God has given some control over this world to Satan and his minions. We don’t know all the reasons for this, but we know it’s true. We see this every day in our own time and the people of Jesus’ day saw the same things.
Jesus had invaded the earthly domain of the devil. We see this in our text. Satan trusted in his own strength, his own armour and his own spoils (vs 22). The so-called strength of Satan is no match for the power of God. It’s an interesting image. Satan has his armour and his spoils of “victory” in this conflict. For all his armour and spoils, God has but to lift a finger (vs 20) and Satan is cast out. The Kingdom of God, in its most infinitesimal way, is more powerful than anything the devil can throw at it.
Satan’s armour of lies and deceit and wickedness are wiped out when confronted with the overwhelming goodness of the God-man, Jesus. Satan’s spoils, the torture of human souls, are stripped from him by the grace of the healing touch of Jesus. By the mere spoken word of Jesus, Satan is cast out. The torment of silence inflicted on the demon-possessed man falls off like chains and the multitudes break out into praise and admiration at the grace of God in the touch of Jesus.
But Jesus has some hard things to say, even in the midst of this grace-filled moment. He reminds the people that there is no middle ground,
“He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”
Either you are of the Kingdom of God or you are not.
This is hard for us to hear in our politically correct wokeness today. We don’t like hard lines. We want blurry and squishy stuff. We want everyone to get along and everyone to be okay and headed to heaven one day. The hard lines seem, well, hard to us. But Jesus bears no half-heartedness or half measures. He goes on to say as much in verse 28 of our gospel,
“But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”
Are we one of the blessed? Do we want to be one of the blessed? Then, keep the Word. In light of the victory of Jesus over Satan and in order to keep the Word, how then shall we live? What shall we do?
St. Paul is helpful for us in our Epistle reading.
Walk in love, toward one another and in Christ. Mortify your flesh, St. Paul says. This is kind of the point of Lent, after all. After all, the Apostle reminds us in verse 5 of our text,
“For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
And then he tells us to be wise,
“Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief. Be ye not partakers with them.”
We who are Catholic have an aide in the mortification of our flesh and in how to be wise. It’s called Tradition. What a comfort it is for us to know that we don’t have to guess how to walk with Christ, how to mortify our flesh, how to be wise. The Church has told us in Her Tradition. Don’t lean on your own understanding or the vain words of the world (or even some in the Church) today. God has spoken and we can know how we are to live before Him; the Church and Her Tradition is our guide.
Like the Psalmist, we cry,
“My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare. Look thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor…To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul. In thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed.” (Ps. 24:15-16, 1-2)
And as our eyes are lifted from ourselves, as our souls are lifted up, as we trust in Him, we see that we are like the mute man. Like him, we have been healed. We are no longer in the darkness of the world, the grip of the enemy. We are “light in the Lord.”
Let us walk ever in the light of the Lord.