07 Oct. Friday of the 27th Week
Joel 1:13ff. A solemn fast is proclaimed to avert the plague, which evokes the tradition of the fearful “day of the Lord.”
Luke 11:15ff. Jesus casts out devils by the finger of God, not by Beelzebul, as claimed by his detractors.
The Finger of God
One of the favourite methods of answering a question, among the rabbis and with Jesus, is to ask another question. While our western culture demands instant answers, the Bible tries to induce a meditative attitude in God’s presence. This God is beyond our comprehension and rational control, as the Book of Sirach so eloquently says, “More than this we need not add; let the last word be, God is all in all.” (Sir 43:28).
Israel’s liturgies testified to a long-standing tradition that God will transform the universe. In God we do not find a destructive force but a transforming love. Joel quotes from the ancient covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai: The Lord, your God, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness, relenting in punishment (Joel 2:13; Exod 34:6-7). Somehow, when we are pushed to the limits of our energy and patience, then we can realize that God’s plans for us reach beyond the horizons of this earthly life.
Paul picks up this idea(*2), and moves with it in an entirely different direction than the prophet Joel. His doctrine about justification by faith does not deny the efficacy and necessity of good works, but like the prophets whom Paul quotes very frequently, we cannot rely just on our works, no matter how good they may be, for works are visible and so can always be judged. They will seldom achieve the perfection and goals of the laws that God has laid down. Therefore, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy, “Cursed be that one who fails any of the provisions of this law.” And all the people shall answer, “Amen.” (Deut 27:26)
Jesus acknowledges the existence of supernatural forces of good and evil, devils and angels. He wrestles with these mighty powers and must silence his opponents who accuse him out of envy and fear, “by Beelzebul, he casts out devils!” No indeed, he replies, but it is with God’s help that he faces down the power of evil. So we too cannot rely simply on our own unaided strength, but make God our refuge in the day of evil.
First Reading: Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2
Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar. Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God! Grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.
Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.
Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near – a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.
Gospel: Luke 11:15-26
But some of them 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 armour 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.”