One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

March 11, 2010

For Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Jeremiah 7:23-28
Psalm 94(95):1-2,6-9
Luke 11:14-23

Not counting the Sundays, today is the twentieth day of fasting since Ash Wednesday; so the forty days are now half over.
At this turning point, today’s first reading, psalm, and Gospel call us to turn to God with open loyalty and unswerving faithfulness.
When men and women turn to God by asking for Baptism, the Church spends months teaching, readying, and praying with them and for them.
First the Church gives them a public welcome, asking them to say aloud that they want to receive the faith of the Church.
At this welcome, and at least four more times before Baptism, the Church’s full rituals act and pray to drive the spirits of evil away from these men and women.
These rituals are minor exorcisms.
The first has a dramatic form, with the priest imitating the Lord who breathed the Spirit upon mankind at both creation and resurrection.
The priest breathes toward the face of each candidate for Baptism.
He then holds up his right hand, and he says:
By the breath of your mouth, O Lord,
drive away the spirits of evil.
Command them to depart,
for your kingdom has come among us.

The priest’s words recall today’s Gospel: “if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”
At least four other minor exorcisms take place in the months before Baptism.
Then, on the day of Baptism, the candidates must first vow openly that they reject Satan and sin.
Today the Gospel tells us to take openly the side of the Lord Jesus, and to oppose demons openly.
He shuts out neutrality, agnosticism, and lack of commitment, saying, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
To be against him is to be on the side of Satan.
God abides by our freedom, while Satan and demons do not.
In his Gospel today, the Lord Jesus upholds that he wields “the finger of God” to drive out demons and make the Kingdom of God come upon men.
Outside of today’s Gospel, the Word of God uses the saying “finger of God” three times.
The first time it says the “finger of God” turned all the dust in Egypt into biting gnats [Ex. 8:19].
The other two times it says the “finger of God” wrote his Ten Commandments on stone slabs [Ex. 31:18 and Dt. 9:10].
Now in Baptism, the finger of God, the Holy Spirit, writes inside us a character that spells “Son of God.”
The Son of God speaks of himself in his Gospel today as “one stronger” who “attacks and overcomes” Satan.
At the lower edge of the Prince of Peace icon behind our altar is the Greek word NIKA, which means, “he overcomes.”
With his cross the Lord breaks and overcomes the chains of Satan, evil, sin, and death.
He is Love personally alive in flesh and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit— by the finger of God.
He has suffered and died for the sins of the world.
He is Love stronger than death.
Out of his Flesh and Blood risen from the dead he breathes the Holy Spirit for his Apostolic Church.
In Baptism, Christ and the Holy Spirit mark us forever for the Father.
We must testify openly to this with all our mind and choices, or else— as the Lord warns right after today’s section of his Gospel— we are empty houses open for demonic invasion.
By the Flesh and Blood of the Son of God may he abide in us and we in him, that by the Holy Spirit— Breath and Finger of God— we may live forever as sons and daughters in the house of God the Father.

That God Be Glorified in All