Scripture Readings for January 23, 2017
Is the world a good place or a bad place? Some days it’s hard to tell. As Catholics our faith says it’s a good place, God’s place. People familiar with the Bible might point to the creation story in Genesis as proof that God made everything good, very good. That’s one place you can go. I think today’s readings are another.
The Psalm says it most clearly, “The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.” We believe that the person, Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and lived among us to demonstrate what salvation, joy and the kingdom of God really looked like. Everyone could see and experience him and what he did. Today even more than in his own time, the entire world knows about Jesus and what he stands for. So God certainly has revealed his justice and salvation for all to see.
However, that doesn’t mean that recognizing the Kingdom of God is obvious for everyone. It hasn’t been obvious at any point, including when Jesus was alive for all to see. That’s what the story in the Gospel today is all about.
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem had seen and heard about the miracles that Jesus was working and they came to the conclusion that what he was doing couldn’t be explained on natural grounds alone. These religious leaders who had an entire faith tradition of God’s saving actions and who were explicitly waiting for a messiah, came to the conclusion that what they were seeing was the work of the devil. That should tell us that recognizing God’s presence among us is not obvious. If seeing Jesus cure people, give people sight and drive out demons makes some people think it’s the devils work we should not be surprised that it isn’t obvious that the world is a good and holy place.
We, however, believe that Jesus is the Son of God which means we accept that God is here, in this life making a difference just as Jesus did when he was alive. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus points out that the good he does couldn’t be the devil’s work or the devil would be working against himself. More importantly, Jesus makes a remarkable statement of how the strong man of the house must be tied up. The point is that Jesus has tied up the strong man, the devil, so that Jesus can plunder his house, so that he can change what has gone on in the world. Which is to say that there are bad things, evil things in the world but that in the end God wins, whereas the devil, evil is vanquished. The only thing that stands in the way is to blaspheme against the Spirit. Meaning that if you don’t recognize the work of the Spirit you can’t enjoy the benefits of what that means. Recognizing the holiness of life means being able to see God in all of God’s creation.
The Spirit of God can change lives, heal wounds, give us new life but we have to be open enough to recognize it as God’s gift. Think of all that has changed in two thousand years: medicine to cure diseases, indoor plumbing, airplanes, phones to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world instantly, better understanding of human behavior, individual freedom, you could go on and on. The world is a more human friendly place than it was two thousand years ago. We should be able to say the world is good, we should be open enough to recognize God’s love all around us.