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 armor 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jesus may have cast out a demon that day, but the evil spirit was clearly still lurking among the crowds. In his “Rules for Discernment of Spirits,” St. Ignatius says it is characteristic of the evil spirit to raise subtle fears, doubts, or dissatisfaction – all things directed at Jesus in this passage. The crowd stubbornly asks for a sign, unwilling to acknowledge that the exorcism itself had been a sign from God.
There’s a temptation to be skeptical of goodness, of truth. How often do kids get teased for being a “goody two-shoes?” How often are good intentions questioned? Yet Jesus responds with a confidence and conviction that can only come from the Holy Spirit. All throughout Scripture we’re encouraged to trust: that light will overcome darkness, that truth will set us free, that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. How do you see the evil spirit working in our world today? How can you stand confidently in God’s truth?
—Sarah Otto is a Retreat and Program Director at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA.
Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes, to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times, to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others. Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.
—Pedro Arrupe, SJ
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