Watch your language, the way you talk about others. These words could well be Jesus’ response to those criticizing and demonizing him in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ opponents quite literally demonize him: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Jesus patiently tries to reason with them and to explain how it makes no sense to say that he is in league with the devil when he casts out demons especially since some of their own exorcist also cast out demons.
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”
He then challenges them to recognize the presence of God in his work of healings and exorcisms: “But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” So, Jesus patiently tries to lead his “opponents” to recognize the new presence of God in their world and in their life.
Jesus gives us a model to imitate in today’s polarized society. Sadly, too often our political and even religious discourse devolves into name calling, caricature, and even demonization. Our “opponent” is always stupid, even evil and in league with the devil. We don’t just disagree; we demonize the other. This is certainly not the way that Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel. Jesus commands us to love all, especially those with whom we disagree:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45).
We as Christians are called to be ministers of reconciliation. So, we need to examine ourselves as Christians and our rhetoric and actions. How do I respond to people with whom I disagree? Do I try to understand their point of view, the values they are espousing? Do I try to see what we have in common? Or do I take the easy way out of not listening to them and just mocking and caricaturing their position and even demonizing them? There is a violence of words as well as a violence of actions. Jesus challenges me and you today to watch our rhetoric, our language and to be instruments of God’s peace.
Image: “IMG_0067 Gian Domenico Tiepolo. 1727-1804. Venise. Jésus guérissant le paralytique de Bethesda. Jesus healing the paralytic of Bethesda. Louvre.” by jean louis mazieres is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.