These readings are from the Catholic daily bible readings for mass. I follow them day by day.
Reading 1, Jeremiah 7:23-28
23 My one command to them was this: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. In everything, follow the way that I mark out for you, and you shall prosper.
24 But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed their own devices, their own stubborn and wicked inclinations, and got worse rather than better.
25 From the day your ancestors left Egypt until today, I have sent you all my servants the prophets, persistently sending them day after day.
26 But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have deliberately resisted, behaving worse than their ancestors.
27 So you will tell them all this, but they will not listen to you; you will call them, but they will not answer you.”
28 Then you are to say to them, “This is the nation that will neither listen to the voice of the Lord, nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.”
Gospel, Luke 11:14-23
14 He was driving out a devil and it was dumb; and it happened that when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.
15 But some of them said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he drives devils out.’
16 Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven;
17 but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Any kingdom which is divided against itself is heading for ruin, and house collapses against house.
18 So, too, with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom last? – since you claim that it is through Beelzebul that I drive devils out.
19 Now if it is through Beelzebul that I drive devils out, through whom do your own sons drive them out? They shall be your judges, then.
20 But if it is through the finger of God that I drive devils out, then the kingdom of God has indeed caught you unawares.
21 So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own home, his goods are undisturbed;
22 but when someone stronger than himself attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.
23 ‘Anyone who is not with me is against me; and anyone who does not gather in with me throws away.
Jesus compared himself with the prophets and especially with their rejection by the people of their time: he looked ahead to the definitive rejection of his own ministry by the religious leaders of his day.
I often wonder how the prophets looked to their contemporaries. Were they seen as sad relics of an outdated faith, or as dangerous zanies, or as politically motivated agitators? We only get the prophets’ side of the story, often articulated by the “voice of God.” I suppose that they were treated as prophets are today: sometimes respected, sometimes derided, but never taken seriously. Their visions of a more peaceful world were held to be unrealistic pipe-dreams. The claim of Jeremiah’s God, nevertheless, was that his way of social justice and true worship would have brought the modest wellbeing that most people want. Then as now the prophetic voice was drowned out by the clamour of those who were used to far more than modest wellbeing and were unwilling to give it up. Such people speak lies, and use mass media that communicate lies, and the more the lies prove destructive and threadbare, the more loudly they are trumpeted. Read any newspaper. “Sincerity has vanished from their mouths.” Simone Weil, the prophetic French philosopher, thought that deliberate lying about public affairs should be punishable by death.
Another way of silencing inconvenient prophets is to question their standing. They claim to be the voice of God, but may be the voice of a foreign enemy, or the very voice of the evil one. This tactic was used against Jesus. His followers claimed he healed people by the power of God, but perhaps it was the power of the chief of evil spirits.
Jesus’ answer used the word “house” meaning both dynasty and household. If the evil one is giving him power to cast our evil spirits, then there’s surely something rotten in the state of Beelzebub, his dynasty must be in civil war, and is doomed to destruction. On the other hand, if Beelzebub’s household can be plundered and its slaves set free, doesn’t that suggest the presence of someone stronger than evil? Again we can hear the rough humour of Jesus’ wisdom. God’s little finger, he hints, is stronger than the devil’s arm.
Jesus was asking people to see that goodness comes from God.