Reading and Reflection For Thursday 23rd March (God’s kingdom has come upon you)

First Reading: From the Book of Jeremiah 7:23-28

23 My one command to them was this: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. In everything, follow the way that I mark out for you, and you shall prosper.

24 But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed their own devices, their own stubborn and wicked inclinations, and got worse rather than better.

25 From the day your ancestors left Egypt until today, I have sent you all my servants the prophets, persistently sending them day after day.

26 But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have deliberately resisted, behaving worse than their ancestors.

27 So you will tell them all this, but they will not listen to you; you will call them, but they will not answer you.”

28 Then you are to say to them, “This is the nation that will neither listen to the voice of Yahweh its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.


Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

1 Come, let us cry out with joy to Yahweh, acclaim the rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, acclaim him with music.

6 Come, let us bow low and do reverence; kneel before Yahweh who made us!

7 For he is our God, and we the people of his sheepfold, the flock of his hand. If only you would listen to him today!

8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as at the time of Massah in the desert,

9 when your ancestors challenged me, put me to the test, and saw what I could do!


Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of Saint Luke 11:14-23

14 He was driving out a devil and it was dumb; and it happened that when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.

15 But some of them said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he drives devils out.’

16 Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven;

17 but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Any kingdom which is divided against itself is heading for ruin, and house collapses against house.

18 So, too, with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom last? – since you claim that it is through Beelzebul that I drive devils out.

19 Now if it is through Beelzebul that I drive devils out, through whom do your own sons drive them out? They shall be your judges, then.

20 But if it is through the finger of God that I drive devils out, then the kingdom of God has indeed caught you unawares.

21 So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own home, his goods are undisturbed;

22 but when someone stronger than himself attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

23 ‘Anyone who is not with me is against me; and anyone who does not gather in with me throws away.


Reflection

Theme: God’s kingdom has come upon you

What is the best protection which brings lasting security to our lives? Scripture tells us that true peace and security come to those who trust in God and obey his word. “Obey my voice and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23). The struggle between choosing to do good or evil, yielding to my will or God’s will, God’s way or my way, cannot be won by human strength or will-power alone. Our enemy, the devil, conspires with the “world” (whatever is opposed to God and his truth and righteousness) and our “flesh” (whatever inclines us to yield to hurtful desires and wrongdoing), to draw us away from the peace, joy, and security which God provides for those who put their trust in him.

Peter the Apostles tells us, Our adversary, the devil prowls the earth seeking the ruin of souls (1 Peter 5:8-9). The devil is opposed to God and he seeks to draw us away from God’s plan and will for our lives. God offers us grace (his merciful help and strength) and protection (from Satan’s lies and deception) if we are willing to obey his word and resist the devil’s lies and temptations. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:9-11). The Lord offers us the peace and security of his kingdom which lasts forever and which no other power can overcome.

God’s kingdom brings healing and freedom from the destructive forces of sin and Satan
Jesus’ numerous exorcisms brought freedom to many who were troubled and oppressed by the work of evil spirits. Jesus himself encountered personal opposition and battled with Satan when he was put to the test in the wilderness just before his public ministry (Luke 4:1-13). He overcame the evil one through his obedience to the will of his Father. Some of the Jewish leaders reacted vehemently to Jesus’ healings and exorcisms and they opposed him with malicious slander. How could he get the power and authority to release individuals from Satan’s power? They assumed that he had to be in league with Satan. They attributed his power to Satan rather than to God.

Jesus answers their charge with two arguments. There were many exorcists among the Jews in Jesus’ time. So Jesus retorted by saying that they also incriminate their own kin who cast out demons. If they condemn Jesus they also condemn themselves. In his second argument he asserts that no kingdom divided against itself can survive for long? We have witnessed enough civil wars in our own time to prove the destructive force at work here for the annihilation of whole peoples and their land. If Satan lends his power against his own forces then he is finished. How can a strong person be defeated except by someone who is stronger? Jesus asserted his power and authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of the reign of God.

Jesus’ reference to the finger of God points back to Moses’ confrontation with Pharoah and his magicians who represented Satan and the kingdom of darkness (see Exodus 8:19). Jesus claims to be carrying on the tradition of Moses whose miracles freed the Israelites from bondage by the finger of God. God’s power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God’s kingdom has come.

Is Jesus the Master of your life?
Jesus makes it clear that there are no neutral parties. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. There are two kingdoms in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness under the rule of Satan. If we disobey God’s word, we open to door to the power of sin and Satan in our lives. If you want to live in freedom from sin and Satan, then your “house” – your life and possessions (all that you rely upon for livelihood, peace, and security) – must be occupied by Jesus where he is enthroned as Lord and Savior. Is the Lord Jesus the Master of your home, heart, mind, and will?

“O Lord, our God, grant us, we beseech you, patience in troubles, humility in comforts, constancy in temptations, and victory over all our spiritual foes. Grant us sorrow for our sins, thankfulness for your benefits, fear of your judgment, love of your mercies, and mindfulness of your presence; now and for ever.”  (Prayer by John Cosin)

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