The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ – for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’
Jesus said: If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
Too often our Christian communities behave as though they are mini-kingdoms in their own right. A few strong-willed people dominate and, as they dominate, they dictate the way in which ‘their’ community of faith behaves. Sometimes their behaviour even distorts the basic tenets of the faith – just like those Pharisees we read of throughout the Gospel narrative. As such people gain influence and power over others, the kingdom of God in those communities becomes divided and the devil finds his way into their midst.
These may seem strong words, but it is exactly what Jesus is saying to us today. Jesus has been accused of casting out demons by the authority of the devil, rather than the authority and power of God. It is in this context that Jesus asks: How can Satan cast out Satan? It is in this context that Jesus says: If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. Jesus is making it clear that all who profess a faith in him and his Heavenly Father are required to live in peace and unity. Jesus is making it clear that there is no room in any Christian community for the bigot and the bully, even if their words and actions are wrapped up in pseudo-theological terms!
Today’s reading contains a warning that we would do well to heed. Jesus is warning us to stay true to the teachings of scripture, even when those teachings stand in the way of our shaping the Church to suit our own ends. Today’s readings warns the leaders of Christ’s Church to listen to God and then to work with those they lead in a spirit of humility and love. Today’s reading warns us to set aside our human wisdom and accept that only God’s wisdom is truly wise!
Let us pray that we and others may not be the cause of division within our communities of faith. Let us pray that we might be self-sacrificial in the way we live out our lives as true disciples of Christ. Let us pray that the true humility for which we strive might lead others towards God. Let us pray that all division within the Church might cease.