Today, my brothers and sisters, our readings reveal to us the inner mystery around who God is, and, in response, who we are called to be. So, let us open our hearts and reflect upon who God is and how we might see Him; and if needed, even allow Him to change how we might see Him and respond to who He is.
Our Gospel comes from the 3rd chapter of Mark, in which the people, especially the scribes and Jewish leaders, are still trying to figure out just who Jesus is. They hear of the miracles and healings he has performed, they see the great crowd that gathers wherever he goes, but they don’t know who He is or where He came from. They don’t know where Jesus got his power and authority from, after all, he wasn’t formed by any of the leading rabbi’s. Feeling a little threatened by Jesus’ fame and following, and not wanting to give themselves over to the truth of who Jesus is revealing Himself to be, the leaders of the Jewish people surmise that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul- a name used for Satan. Satan at this time, and still now, is known as the devil, the prince and leader of all demons and evil spirits- the enemy of God. The people in the time of Jesus believed in the devil, they saw people who were possessed and many other effects and causes of Satan. In fact, Jesus in our Gospel declares that division is the chief effects of Satan- wherever Satan goes, and whatever he does, the chief cause or thing that Satan brings about is division, dis-unity, and destruction. Therefore, all the division in the world, all the dis-unity in the Church, all the division in marriages and families, and in our own hearts, has its root in Satan, and in our first-parent’s, as well as our own, compliance to Satan’s temptations to sin.
Our first reading appropriately is from Genesis and the Fall of Adam and Eve. Our first parents were created by the Lord God, and they were in perfect unity and harmony with God. For that is how God created the world, every plant, animal, and Adam and Eve, to live in perfect peace and unity with Him and each other. So there was peace and unity in the world, in their marriage, and in Adam and Eve’s soul; that is up until they submitted to the temptations of the serpent, the Evil One, and sinned. Then, blaming the other, separation, and division took the place of the peace and unity. Every person from the beginning and including the time of Jesus, reasoned that there must be an Evil One who causes and instigates all the evil in the world, that it can’t all just happen by chance. However, even though the people believed in the power of Satan, they were not open to the power of God in their midst, in the person of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, in our society today, many people don’t believe in Satan. In fact, that is the strategy of the devil, as CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters insights, Satan’s tactic is to get people to not believe he exists- for if the Evil One doesn’t exist, then neither does His arch-enemy- God, the Holy One. If there is no source and cause of all the evil in the world and in the hearts of men, then neither is there a source and cause for the unity, truth, and goodness in the world and in all people. And if there is no Evil One, then all the bad things people do are just relative- there is no sin, no right and wrong, no truth and false, no good and bad, no division and unity, just different ways of being for different people in different circumstances- with no unifying truth, no truth that holds all things and people together. Such is the new norm in our society- relativism is the new norm that has creeped into the hearts and philosophy of the general population, the atheist, agnostic, as well as people who say that God exists even though they don’t let Him effect their lives, and probably even some of yours and my hearts as well. Therefore, if there is no such thing as Satan or sin, then neither is there a one-single authority to have claim over how one should live their life.
Of course, we believe that both God and Satan do exist, and that they are at war for yours and mine, and every person’s soul. God wants to bring unity to the world, our families, and souls, and Satan wants to bring division and destruction. However, we also believe as Christians that no matter how sly and powerful Satan is, God is more powerful. God is the one and only all-powerful being, and that God has defeated Satan. In fact, as our first reading testifies, immediately after Satan’s power and effects entered the world, God gave the first foreshadowing of the Good News of the Gospel. God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel”. So God says that there is enmity, total opposition, between Satan his offspring, which is sin; and that a woman and her offspring will defeat Satan. We now deduce that the woman is Mary because her offspring is Jesus who steps on the head of Satan and overcomes the power of sin. Therefore, God is the all-powerful being who has overcome and defeated Satan and the power of sin.
This truth means that there is no division or effect of Satan that God cannot bring peace and unity into, and heal. As well as, as our Gospel says, that all sins and blasphemies will be forgiven- except for one. The only sin that will not be forgiven is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. So, what is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you might wonder? What is the one sin that is ever-lasting and unforgiveable? Remember the context of the Gospel, the people, especially the leaders, were believing that Jesus was actually casting out evil spirits by the power of Satan- the Evil One. They did not believe in the Holy Spirit, they did not believe in the power of God. And if one does not believe in the power of God, if one does not submit themselves to the authority of God by their lack of confession of their sin, then those sins will not be forgiven. For if one does not believe that there is a God who has overcome sin, and does not confess their sin and need for God’s mercy, then that person is choosing not to be saved by God.
However, there is one more essential revelation in our first reading and Gospel of who God is that we must understand and believe in from the bottom of our hearts. Not only is God the Creator of the world and everything good in it. Not only is God the author of all that is united, true, and good. Not only does God have the right to define and declare what is right and wrong, and for our good, and thus deserve the submission of you and I, and all his creation, to his authority. And not only is God the all-powerful Savior who has defeated Satan and has overcome and can heal the division of sin in the world and our lives; God is all that, while being a loving Father. God is all-powerful Creator, Savior and Father. God is Father, Father of Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son to whom He has given all power to defeat the power of sin. Both Mary and Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father’s will for Jesus to become human through Mary and die upon the Cross out of love for the Father’s sinful people. And thus, in and through Jesus, God has adopted and calls us his sons and daughters, and gives Mary to be our mother too- if we also submit ourselves to doing our Father’s will. In fact, Jesus teaches this fact by declaring “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”. God who is the Creator of the world, who is the author of all that is one, true, and good, made you and I, and every person, in His image and likeness, to be His sons and daughters. Thus, we are made for and God wants to give us all that is one, true, and good.
However, we know that sin divides and takes away our peace and unity and we lose perspective of what is true and good. After Adam and Eve sinned, they recognized they were naked for the first time, and so they hid themselves from God and each other. Even though God knew what they did and where they were, in their shame, they hid themselves from God. Don’t we all try to hide ourselves from God? Don’t we all find it difficult to fully let God into the bad and sinful areas of our life? But let us think about what we are really doing when we do. We are trying to hide ourselves from the all-knowing Father who knows what we’ve done, loves us anyways, and wants to save and heal us. St. Augustine profoundly and rightly testifies, “Could anything remain hidden in me, even though I did not want to confess it to you? In that case I would only be hiding you from myself, not myself from you”. When we hide ourselves, we are not keeping ourselves from God as much as we are keeping God from us! We are preventing God from doing what He wants to do in and for us. We are keeping God from being our Savior and healer. Therefore, if you could use a little more unity, truth, and goodness, in your life, then there is one thing we must do. You and I must give ourselves to Jesus Christ and the power of God completely. We must surrender ourselves to do God’s will for our lives, we must follow Him and let Him lead in everything. We must confess our sinfulness, not because God doesn’t know what they are, but so that we can open ourselves to receiving God’s healing forgiveness and love. So, this week, will you take some time in prayer and do your best to surrender yourself to God’s love and authority, will you be weak and vulnerable before Him, come to the Sacrament of Confession if you need, and let Him bring His fullness, and all that is one, true, and good, into every aspect of your life.