Sunday, 9 June 2024. Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, Ps. 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” (Mark 3:23)

Two Sundays ago, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the mystery of three persons perfectly united in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Given our wealth of theological knowledge today, it is easy for us to profess faith in the Trinity, but it wasn’t easy for the Jews to understand or believe that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They saw how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies about the Messiah and the miracles He did. They admitted that only God could perform such signs, but they struggled to believe that God was with them in human flesh, and so they tried to explain away Jesus’ miracles by saying that He casts our demons by the power of Beelzebub.

The sad reality is that just as the Jews did not believe (even Jesus’ disciples doubted), many Christians today still cannot pick a side as to what they believe - whether the devil or God. Some of us still fear the devil more than God. We must ask ourselves: Which kingdom do I belong to? If I say I belong to God, do I live by the principles of God’s kingdom? In other words, do I keep God’s words as a brother, sister, or mother of Jesus? Jesus said that any kingdom that is divided against itself cannot stand. Am I an agent of division in my family, church, or workplace? What efforts do I make to bring unity and peace? These are some lessons we shall be reflecting upon today.

1. Which Kingdom do I belong to?
The fact that you are baptised (and confirmed) does not necessarily make you part of God’s kingdom. Belonging to a church does not make you a Christian. It is what you do that matters. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were waiting outside to see him, yet He asked, "Who are my mother and my brothers?” Why did Jesus ask this question? To dispel any misconceptions and let us understand that belonging to God’s kingdom is not even a matter of blood-relationship. The fact that your parents are Christians does not mean that you are automatically covered. What makes us members of God’s kingdom? Jesus answered this question when he said: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35). In other words, it's not about what you say but what you do that truly matters.

To know which kingdom you belong to, examine your actions, especially those you do when no one is watching. As Jesus would say: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). In another passage, Jesus said: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words.” (John 14:23-24). When we disobey God’s commandments, our actions proclaim that we do not belong to God’s kingdom. Sin alienates us from God; it makes us run away from God; we no longer feel comfortable in His presence. This was the experience of Adam and Eve in today’s first reading. 

Having eaten the forbidden tree, Adam realised he was naked, and he hid from God. Adam was still in the Garden of Eden, but he could no longer go about freely because he knew he was naked. We may be well dressed and seated in church, but deep inside us, we know we are naked because sin has stripped us of our dignity; we know the things we do that do not give us the boldness to stand before God. Brothers and sisters in Christ, what are those things in our lives that make us hide from God and do not give us the boldness to address Jesus as his brother, sister, or mother? Consider this as a call to repentance. Like the prodigal son, it is time to retrace our steps!

2. With The Lord, There is Mercy and Fullness of Redemption
Adam and Eve made a mistake by eating the forbidden fruit, but when God confronted them, they made another mistake – they refused to admit their fault. Instead of saying “I am sorry” and beg forgiveness, they shifted the blame. The only thing worse than a sin is failing to understand that it was entirely your fault. Adam and Eve tried to prove that they didn’t have a choice, but the truth is that they had everything it took to say “No” to the devil’s suggestions. Human nature is weak, but as St. Paul teaches, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

Why is it important to admit our fault rather than shift blame to others? If we don’t admit that it is our fault, we cannot ask forgiveness, and if we don’t ask forgiveness, we cannot receive pardon; we will continue suffering the consequences of our sins. The prodigal son came to his senses (admitted he did something wrong), preached to himself and decided to return to his father to ask for mercy. If you believe that others are the problem, you will remain forever stuck in the cycle of sin. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are not a toy but a human being. Your life is not under the control of others; you have everything it takes to say: “No.” As we say in the Stations of the Cross, “Your will is yours.”

Just as Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent; the serpent could have also passed the buck to something else, and ultimately, it would end with God. Some still ask, “Why did God plant a tree in the garden when He knew that Adam and Eve would eat it?” This question is blasphemous because it accuses God of being responsible for the sins of mankind; it is not different from what the Jews did in today’s Gospel passage by accusing Jesus of operating by the power of the devil. Stop blaming others for your sins; you always have a choice. God planted the forbidden tree, but was that the only tree in the garden? Admit your fault and sincerely beg God to pardon and strengthen you. God is ready to forgive you, but you cannot be forgiven unless you are sorry.

3. The Power of Unity
It is often said: “If you want to kill a dog, give it a bad name.” The easiest way to kill someone is to spread a rumour about them. By accusing Jesus of casting out devils by the prince of devils, the Jews hoped to discredit Him and bring about division among His followers. It can be very painful when you are accused of something you are innocent of by the same people you are trying to help. Jesus could have reigned down curses upon them, but he responded calmly and gently. How do I respond to false accusations? 

Jesus asked: “How can satan cast out satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, it can never stand.” As the saying goes, “united we stand but divided we fall.” Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask, “Am I an agent of division in my family, church, or workplace? What efforts do I make to bring unity and peace wherever I find myself?” 

One of the strategies the devil employs to bring Christians down is to make them fight themselves. Your problem is not that brother or sister that has refused to greet you; your problem is the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy. As St. Paul says: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and judgment, for it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarrelling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

4. The Devil is Strong, But God is Stronger
On the other hand, by accusing Jesus of casting out devils by the prince of devils, the Jews, like many Christians today, showed that they believed more in the power of the devil than in the power of God. It is sad to say that many of us still fear the devil more than God. How? When bad things happen to us, we are quick to blame the devil, but when good things happen, we find it difficult to praise God, claiming it was due to our hard work or good luck. When life is sweet and rosy, some of us suddenly stop praying; we look for explanations to push God out of our lives. We only remember God when we are in trouble. 

Some Christians say, “God has never done anything for me”, revealing their ingratitude and lack of faith. When threatened by devil worshippers, we panic (get sleepless nights), but despite our knowledge of the Bible, we are not afraid to disobey God’s commandments. Again, when we are caught in sin, we say, “It was the devil”, proving that we believe the devil has power over us.

Jesus said: “No one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his goods without first binding up the man.” Satan may be powerful, but he is nothing before God. If you truly know the God you serve, you will not be afraid of the devil. Stop listening to preachers who put fear in you by telling you what the devil can do but would never tell you what God can do for you. They tell you to wake up to pray at midnight because that is the time witches gather to wreak havoc, as if they also attend such meetings. Brothers and sisters, you can pray at any time of the day, and the God you serve will protect you. You are a child of God; do not live your life in fear. Even if they take your clothes to their evil shrines, it will not work because you are a child of light. You are God’s anointed. You are a communicant. Jesus lives in you. No one can attack you and win because no one can attack God and win. Have confidence in God’s power. 

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to fear, love, and worship you in every circumstance of my life. Free me from the temptation to ascribe what isn’t his to Satan and acknowledge that you care for me. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. May God's abundant blessings be upon us all. (10th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Genesis 3:9-15, Ps. 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu