13 October
Lk 11:15-26

Some people 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."

The usual image of hell is heat, but in ancient Ireland it was cold.  I suppose it is whatever you suffer from.  But the worst cold is emotional and spiritual, not climatic.  “The devil appeared to St Bridget,” wrote Abbé Huvelin, “and she asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Coldness itself,’ he replied.”  It suits him better than heat, since he is the prince of darkness and lacking in every kind of love except self-love. 

How could those people in the crowd imagine that Jesus was in league with his opposite?  They were impatient to explain him away.  They were not entering the mystery; they were fleeing from it.  Many explanations of things are just that: an eagerness to dispose of something that is not understood, a flight from ignorance into greater ignorance.  A false or a shallow theory is a worse kind of ignorance than simple ignorance.  It is a defence against understanding.  “I don’t know” is a perfectly honest and humble position; it is the only perfect position for learning.  If we could enter “I don’t know” fully, our minds would be as fresh as children’s minds, and we would learn as quickly as they do.  Instead we clutter the path of knowledge with theories and explanations, which we mistake for knowledge.  It is full of danger, because it sometimes leads us, like that crowd long ago, to calling good bad.  It is a very present danger: the Church has become more and more polarised in recent decades; you hear people say horrible things about anyone whose views don't match their own.  It is a terrible thing to have enough religion in you for hatred but not enough for love.  That is the same stuff that made it possible for those people to think Jesus was in league with Beelzebul. 

[By the way, today is Friday 13th!  Should you go back to bed?!  Are you superstitious?  Why do some people think Friday 13th an unlucky day?  The reason is this: England was once a Catholic country, and there were many customs that expressed people’s devotion but appeared superstitious to some.  One of these was the belief that Friday was a good day on which to begin a job, because Jesus died on a Friday.  Another was that 13 was a good number, because of Jesus and the twelve apostles.  So Friday 13th was seen as a really good day!  But when the Puritans came to power there was a reaction against all this.  However, instead of saying that these days and dates were simply neutral, the opposite belief set in: that they were unlucky!   Similarly, walking under ladders used to remind people of the death of Jesus on the cross.  From England the belief spread to the rest of the world.  So I don't think you have to go back to bed!  But you can be reminded today of the death of Jesus.]

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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