Beelzebul versus the Culture of Life, 3rd Monday (II), January 22, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life
January 22, 2018
2 Sam 5:1-7.10, Ps 89, Mk 3:22-30

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today as our nation marks the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court Decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized abortion in our country and has been responsible for about 58 million abortions that we know of since then, the Word of God gives us much to think about with regard to the evil of abortion and what’s needed in response to it. Let’s consider the light God gives us to understand it better and know what our task is with regard to building a true culture of life.
  • In the Gospel today, Jesus is accused of exorcising demons by the power of Beelzebul, the Prince of Demons. The scribes who had come from Jerusalem on foot to Galilee, witnessing Jesus’ exorcisms, couldn’t deny that the exorcisms were occurring, that possessed people were being liberated, that the demons themselves were hailing Jesus as the “Holy One of God.” They couldn’t deny the facts. But they could try to change the interpretation. And because they had already prejudged Jesus not to be the type of Messiah they were looking for, because he didn’t follow their own man-made prescriptions with regard to the Sabbath, to fasting and to other parts of the fence they drew around the Mosaic law, concluded that since he couldn’t be of God, then he had to be of the devil. That’s why the said that Jesus himself was “possessed by Beelzebul” and exorcised not by God’s power but by the power of the “prince of demons.” It was an absurd accusation and Jesus pointed how ridiculous it was in some brief parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan?,” he said. “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.” In other words, the only way he could plunder Satan’s house (the only way he could remove a possessed man from Satan’s dominion) and drive him out of that house is if he had bound up Satan first. If a possessed man — as they were claiming Jesus to be — were battling against the prince of demons and casting demons out from those whom the demons had occupied, then Satan’s kingdom would be defeated.
  • We learn a few things here.
  • First we can see the work of the devil, who very much exists, in the whole industry of abortion. We can see the “father of lies” underneath all the lies and deception we witness from Planned Parenthood and the abortion movement and its defenders. We can see how the devil wants to use that not only to end individual lives of those who are smaller, weaker, more vulnerable and more dependent than we are right now, but also to continue to corrupt all of those involve in making abortions happen and to divine our country. President Abraham Lincoln himself would famously cite Jesus’ words to keep the United States united during the time leading up to the Civil War because of slavery. And we can see today just how polarized our country is fundamentally because of abortion and the way that it was thrust on our society by judicial fiat 45 years ago today. How can there be union when some citizens think it’s fine to kill other human beings and others are trying to save their lives? As St. Mother Teresa said at Harvard back in 1982, and many others including Cardinal O’Connor have stressed since, when there is no inalienable right to life then all other rights are built on sand. There can be no national unity when there is a division so great.
  • The second thing we see is about forgiveness. Jesus talks about the unforgivable sin.  “Amen, I say to you,” he said, beginning with the words of a solemn oath: “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.” He’s not talking about the sin of abortion. As horrible as it is, it can certainly be forgiven. You have seen Sisters on so many Hope and Healing Retreats the beauty of women whose lives have been restored through receiving God’s mercy. You can only imagine what it’s like on the other side of the screen. The sin of abortion can be forgiven and the Church summons those who have sinned in this way to come with repentance to receive God’s mercy. But what is the sin that cannot be forgiven? What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and why can’t it be forgiven? Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in general, is calling something evil good or good evil. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and one blasphemes against him whenever one deliberately or with vincible ignorance calls a lie the truth or a truth the lie. Jesus reminded them of this sin because they were saying “He has an unclean spirit,” that he was possessed, as he was doing God’s work. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss” (CCC 1864). The reason why blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable is not because God doesn’t want to forgive but because the sinner won’t open up to receive mercy, either because he doesn’t believe he needs it, or because she doesn’t believe God will forgive, or because he doesn’t want to come to receive it in the way God has intended. When someone is convinced that evil is good and a lie is true, the person will not think he or she is in need of forgiveness. When someone is calling Jesus evil and possessed, that person is generally not going to come to ask Jesus for mercy. When someone has convinced himself that abortion is a beautiful act of freedom that should be celebrated, they’re generally not going to repent. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not a curse against the third Person of the Trinity but a hard-hearted refusal to be opened by him to the truth of things and to come to receive the forgiveness that “God the Father of mercies through the death and resurrection of his Son has sent the Holy Spirit among us” to accomplish. And part of this day is praying in reparation for those who are hardened against God’s mercy, who want to pretend as if abortion, rather than being one of the greatest sins, is actually quasi-sacramental and a beautiful expression of woman’s freedom; praying in reparation for those who recognize that they and our culture have blood on their hands but refuse to come to be reconciled, praying in reparation for those who think that because they’ve committed an abortion, not even God can forgive them.
  • The third thing we learn from the Gospel today is that just as Jesus was calumniated as an agent of the devil, so, too, we will be falsely accused of being against women’s rights, or against progress, or haters, or other insults. Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes that blessed are we when we’re persecuted, hated and spoken of falsely because of him because our reward in heaven will be great. The suffering we experience as pro-lifers for doing the good and speaking up and working for women and their children is part of the prayer we can offer in reparation for this great crime that cries out to heaven.
  • Fourth, we know that as we unite ourselves to Christ in the cause of life and eternal life, we are not alone. Not only are we united with so many others, but God reminds us today though the psalm that his faithfulness and mercy will be with us!
  • Lastly, in the first reading, we see the importance of leadership and particularly a leadership that unties. The elders of the tribes of Israel come to David in Hebron, where he was King of Judah and asked him to shepherd the children of Israel, too. (Judah is the southern part of the Holy Land, Israel the northern, and they were inhabited by different tribes from among the descendants of Jacob). David, who was a uniter rather than a divider, agreed and ruled over both kingdoms for the next 33 years. It’s an image of what’s supposed to happen with the “son of David,” Christ, who came so that we might all be one, as he and the Father are one, something we continue to pray for in this Octave of Prayer for Christian unity. But this movement needs leaders, and not just politicians and judges who fight to ensure that every human life is protected in law and welcomed with love. It also needs cultural leaders, leaders on the front lines, compassionate fighters who care for vulnerable women and help them choose life. And we thank you, Sisters, for that leadership you provide — and pray that, as we prepare to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, he, the Stronger Man, will bless you with himself and help you to become in our day leaders like Saint Joan of Arc!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
2 SM 5:1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king,
it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you,
‘You shall shepherd my people Israel
and shall be commander of Israel.’”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron,
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD,
and they anointed him king of Israel.
David was thirty years old when he became king,
and he reigned for forty years:
seven years and six months in Hebron over Judah,
and thirty-three years in Jerusalem
over all Israel and Judah.
Then the king and his men set out for Jerusalem
against the Jebusites who inhabited the region.
David was told, “You cannot enter here:
the blind and the lame will drive you away!”
which was their way of saying, “David cannot enter here.”
But David did take the stronghold of Zion, which is the City of David.David grew steadily more powerful,
for the LORD of hosts was with him.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 89:20, 21-22, 25-26

R. (25a) My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
Once you spoke in a vision,
and to your faithful ones you said:
“On a champion I have placed a crown;
over the people I have set a youth.”
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him,
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand upon the sea,
his right hand upon the rivers.”
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.

Gospel
MK 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.”