15 March. Thursday of Week 3 of Lent
Jeremiah 7:23ff. Jeremiah presents human life in terms of a simple, obedient response to God. Disobedience was the cause of their disasters.
Luke 11:14ff. His miracles proved that Jesus was acting with the authority of God, and not in league with the devil.
Basic Human Virtues
While the passage from Jeremiah presents human life in terms of a simple, obedient response to God, Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel recognize a violent struggle between devils and angels raging within us. Yet, Jesus’ exorcism, driving out the demon, made it possible for the man to speak, a power simply taken for granted by the rest of us. In the same way, Jeremiah declared the deadly seriousness about obedience to God’s will in the normal everyday details of life. Later in the same chapter Jeremiah announced: “Beware! days will come when I will silence the cry of joy for the land will be turned to rubble” (Jer 7:32-34).
The simplest acts of basic human virtue – like compassion, forgiveness, prayer, understanding, loyalty, loving affection – make all the difference between heaven and hell, life and death. Earlier on, Jeremiah had said very clearly: “Only if you reform your ways and your deeds; if each deals justly with his neighbour, if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood or follow strange gods to your own harm, will the Lord, your God remain with you.” (7:5-7)
Jesus used this common-sense style of response. He replied equivalently to his detractors: If I have done a good act, how can you suggest that I acted with an evil spirit? If I am compassionate towards the sick, do not accuse me of sin! If it is by the power of God that I cast out devils, then the messianic age is dawning.
Jeremiah and Jesus then do not differ as much as we might suppose. Each announces a messianic kingdom within reach of everyone. Jeremiah asked for a heart responsive to God’s will, ready for kindness and forgiveness. We must not be stiff-necked; we ought to be faithful, listening attentively for the promptings of God’s spirit.
Jeremiah ends with a call for “faithfulness.” In Hebrew the word implies: be what you are supposed to be! It means consistency, fidelity to the good nature God has placed within us. Such consistency confirms our relationship with God, with our neighbours, and with the alien in our midst. Goodness ought to be as normal as breathing.
This Lent, can we help the needy and the stranger, so that these virtuous actions become second nature to us? Then we will be acting under the finger of God and furthering the kingdom of God in our midst.
First Reading: Jeremiah 7:23-28
But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.
From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did. So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
Gospel: Luke 11:14-23
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. 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 oes not gather with me scatters.