This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
TURKISH COUPLE IN KURDISTAN PROTEST THE DESTRUCTION OF KISS SCULPTURE
New English Translation (NET)
The Return of the Unclean Spirit
43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places looking for rest but does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’ When it returns, it finds the house empty, swept clean, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so the last state of that person is worse than the first. It will be that way for this evil generation as well!”
Jesus’ True Family
46 While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers came and stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.” 48 To the one who had said this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing toward his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Last week I reflected on Matthew’s use of “house” (Greek OIKOS) imagery to represent Jesus’ struggle against the power of evil. For example, Jesus compared his ministry to the activity of a bold thief, tying up the householder (Satan) and plundering his possessions (people). Here we are given two more uses of this central image by Jesus.
In the first Jesus compares a person to a house from which an evil spirit has been evicted. If the house remains untenanted, it will soon be invaded by a host of evil spirits. The implication is that the house ought to occupied by the Holy Spirit. In this way of thinking, the human house cannot remain void; it will be occupied either by Good or Evil. Bob Dylan says the same thing using the image of service: “Well it may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.” Moral hygiene is not enough to protect a person from evil; one must be open to share the goodness of God. I read a good story of the Buddha yesterday. A man asks him, “I desire happiness, how can I gain it?” The Buddha answers, “First take away the “I” which is an illusion of identity; then take away the desire, which makes you cling to objects; then you’ll be left with happiness.” It’s a splendid answer, but Jesus would say that the the empty home is at risk; the happiness may be an illusion concealing the presence of evil.
But how do we admit the Holy Spirit to our “house”? We must work at loving the Creator God and his/her child Jesus, trusting that the love they share (which is the Spirit) will also be shared by us.
The second part of today’s passage, offers us the image of house as household or family. This house also can be inhabited by evil or by God. If the natural family takes its own honour as a final value and tries to impose its will on its members and it can become demonic, Jesus rejects his own natural family when it tries to impose upon him, in favour of the greater household where God is father/ mother and all the children are free and precious. If the natural unit serves this “family”, it will find its true goodness; if not, it may become the locus of demonic forces.
Again the harshness of Jesus, his utter rejection of what some people call “family values”, is validated by the mounting evidence that the family is often the locus of cruelty and abuse. For their true health, both individual and family need a purpose beyond themselves. But even such a purpose, especially a religious one, can be corrupted to facilitate abuse.