The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bede the Venerable’s Homily on Luke 11:14-28 for the Third Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2012

I. In Matthew (12:22) we read that the devil by whom this poor creature was possessed, was, not only dumb, but also blind; and that, when he was healed by our Lord, he saw as well as he spoke. Three miracles, therefore, were performed on this one man: the blind saw, the dumb spoke, and the possessed was delivered. This mighty work was then wrought carnally indeed; but it is still wrought spiritually in the conversion of believers, when the devil is cast out of them, so that their eyes see the light of faith, and the lips, which before were dumb, are opened that their mouth may utter the praise of God. But some of them said : He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. These some were not of the multitude, but were liars among the Pharisees and Scribes, as we are told by the other Evangelist (Matt 12:24). While the multitude, who seemed to be less instructed, wondered at the work of the Lord, the Pharisees and Scribes, on the other hand, denied the facts when they could, and, when they were not able to do so, twisted them by an evil interpretation, and asserted that the works of God were the works of an unclean spirit.

II. And others, tempting, asked of Him a sign from heaven. They wished Jesus either to call down fire from heaven, like Elias (2 Kings 1:10), or, like Samuel ( 1 Sam 7:10), to make thunder roll, and lightning flash, and rain fall at mid-summer. Yet, had He done so, they would have tried to explain away these signs also, as being the natural result of some unusual, though till then unremarked, state of the atmosphere. O thou, who stub bornly deniest what thy eye sees, thy hand holds, and thy sense perceives, what wilt thou say to a sign from heaven? Perhaps thou wilt say that the magicians in Egypt also wrought many signs from heaven (Exodus 7-8). But He, seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. He answered not their words, but their thoughts, as though He would compel them to believe in His power, since He sees the secrets of the heart. But if every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, then the kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is not divided, since His is a kingdom that, without all contradiction, shall never be brought to desolation by any shock, but shall abide unchanged and unchangeable for ever. And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say, that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. Saying this, He sought to draw from their own mouth a confession that they had chosen for themselves to be part of the devil s kingdom, which, if divided against itself, cannot stand. It was, therefore, the duty of the Pharisees to answer our Redeemer; for should they say that Satan has not the power to cast out devils, they must confess that they have not anything to say against Jesus. On the other hand, should they pretend that the devil has that power, then, in order to secure their own safety, they will be forced to leave a kingdom which, being divided against itself, will be brought to desolation. However, should the Pharisees wish to know by what power our Lord casts out devils, and to be convinced that this is not done by the power of Beelzebub, let them listen to the words He added, saying: Now, if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do yonr children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. Here our Lord is speaking of His disciples by saying to the Pharisees that their children would be their judges; for the disciples of Jesus, being their posterity, knew for certain that in the school of so perfect a Teacher they had not learnt the detestable art of casting out devils by the power of the devil. Just as if our Lord had said: You will be judged by these simple men, whom you despise, in whom there is no guile, who are free from all cunning artifice, whose faces bear the mark of virtues and holiness, which they discover in Me. Or should you wish to explain these words in another sense, then say that our Lord wished to give to the Pharisees and Scribes this other lesson: If your children cast out devils from the bodies of the possessed by the power of the Holy Ghost, what reason have you to attribute the works I perform to any other than to God the Almighty? Therefore, these children will be the judges of their fathers and will condemn them, for the children refer to God the power they possess to cast out devils, whereas their fathers referred that power to Beelzebub, the prince of devils.

III. Then, to confirm this truth, and to justify the great wonders He performed, our Saviour continued His discourse with these words: But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. It was the finger of God, which was recognised by the magicians of Pharaoh, when they played their tricks or enchantments before Moses; for, seeing the unheard-of wonders of this man sent by God, they exclaimed:This is the finger of God (Exodus 8:19). By this finger of God the Commandments were written on the tables of stone on Mount Sinai. All this teaches us that the Holy Ghost is that finger of God proceeding, as it were, from the hand of the Son, Who is the arm of the, Almighty Father, whilst the Father has one and the same nature with the Son and the Holy Ghost. Should you be scandalized by this comparison of the members which seem unequal, the unity of the body formed by them will edify and even encourage you. It may also be said that the Holy Ghost is called the finger of God, on account of the special graces bestowed by Him to angels and men; for no other limb points like the finger at the different parts composing the Body. When our Lord said: The kingdom of God is come upon you, He meant by this kingdom the happy dispositions of those who now do penance for their sins, and are, even in this life, separated from the wicked condemned by them. When the strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. This strong man is the devil; his court is the world, which .he continually guards, which is thoroughly corrupted through his wickedness, and over which this unclean spirit ruled powerfully before the coming of the Saviour; for he reigned without opposition over the idolatrous nations, his worshippers. Holy Scripture therefore calls him the prince of this world, and our Lord says of him to His disciples: The prince of this world shall be cast out (John 12:31). And the better to describe the defeat and flight of this prince of darkness, our Lord added these words: But if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armour wherein he trusted, and will distribute the spoils. We are thus taught by our Lord that He is the stronger One, more powerful than the devil, whose dominion was overcome, from whose tyranny He delivered mankind by the strength of His almighty arm, and not by a deceiving or with Beelzebub-concerted deliverance, as by their calumnies the Jews tried to make the multitude believe. The cunning artifices of this wicked spirit are the armour wherein the enemy of our salvation trusted, and men deceived by him, are the spoils taken from him and distributed by Jesus after His victory. For, according to the prophet, He will take with Him, on the day of His triumph, a multitude of prisoners up to heaven, where He grants His gifts in abundance, setting up in the Church, some as Apostles, others as prophets, and choosing some as shepherds or as teachers.

IV. He that is not with Me, is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth. Though these words may be applied to heretics and apostates, they specially refer to the devil; for, according to the words following, our Lord wished the multitude to understand that there can not be any comparison between His works and those of hell. What does the devil desire but to keep souls in his slavery? whilst Jesus offers them freedom. The devil presents idols and false gods for our adoration; Jesus teaches us to adore the one and true God. The devil praises sin and vice, and Jesus encourages us to practise virtue, therefore, there cannot be anything in common between Jesus and Satan, for their works are in direct opposition. The Redeemer of the world says that, when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, and thus teaches us the difference between His works and those of the devil. This latter endeavours to defile that which is clean, whereas the Redeemer cleanses what is defiled. Nevertheless, by these words may also be understood heretics and apostates, and even wicked Christians who, after receiving the grace of Baptism, making profession of the true Catholic faith, and renouncing the pomps and vanities of the world, banished the devil from their hearts. And to this unclean spirit, who finds his former house swept and garnished, and the dwelling of the Holy Ghost, one place only remains a dry and barren land, to the approaches to which he goes, trying to take the soul by surprise, and to re-enter his former home. It may be said in all truth that this infernal spirit is seeking rest therein, and cannot find it. For this unclean spirit, who shuns the proximity of pure and innocent souls, can only make his abode in the souls of the wicked and godless, offering him an agreeable refuge and a place of rest. This enemy of the human race, according to Holy Scripture, sleeps in the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places (Job 40:16). This shadow, hiding him, represents the darkness of a sinful soul; by the reed, smooth outwardly, yet inwardly hollow, are meant the hypocrites, who cover the emptiness of their merits with the appearance of virtue; lastly, sensual and lascivious souls are represented by the moist places into which the devil retires. He sayeth: I will return into my house whence I came out. Such resolution on the part of our enemy must make us fear lest our passions and vices, which we thought destroyed, return with greater force to overthrow and take possession of us at the very moment when we but carelessly resist them. Though the enemy on his return will find our soul sanctified by the grace of Baptism and adorned with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, he will also find in it a dry and desolate place, as the Gospel says, when we do not endeavour to increase these graces and merits by practising virtues and good works, or when we do not try to obtain the spiritual goods of which we were at one time deprived. And should our soul only seem to be adorned with virtues, these will be but apparent virtues, brought forth by our hypocrisy.

V. And the devil goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and, entering in, they dwell there. By these wicked spirits, seven in number, are meant all sins and vices. For those who, after being sanctified in Baptism, let their faith be perverted by error and heresy, or give themselves up to the sinful desires of the children of the world, will soon, by the blandishments of Satan, be thrown into the abyss of all wickedness. These other devils, taking possession of the souls, are justly called more wicked than the first, not only because they introduce into them the seven capital sins, opposed to the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, but also because these souls, by their hypocrisy, preserve the exterior appearance of virtues, which they no longer possess. In all truth we can say with the Gospel, that the last state becometh worse than the first, since it would be better, had these souls never known the way of justice, than to for sake it when once recognised. This happened to Judas, the traitor, to Simon, the magician, and to many others mentioned in Holy Scripture. Moreover, our Lord had also another object in view when He spoke this parable, namely, to apply it in a special manner to the Jews, and to teach them that, what He said about one man would be fulfilled in the whole nation. For in St. Matthew He concludes the same parable with these words: So shall, it be also to this wicked generation (Matt 12:45). This truth is confirmed in a most astonishing manner, when we bear in mind that the Jews, accepting the Divine law, forced the devil to go out of their hearts. This unclean spirit, driven out of his house, took refuge among the pagans, as in a desert, and there he found rest. But when these idolatrous nations began to believe in the Saviour of the world, then the devil, again driven out of this house, purposed to return to the Jews, where he had formerly taken up his abode. He returned into the house he had left, and found it again deserted, for Jesus, Who had foretold the Jews that their house would be desolate, no longer dwelt in their temple. This, however, still seemed to be adorned; but these ornaments were but exterior and meaningless observances, introduced by the Pharisees. This house was deprived of the assistance both of God and of the angels, and the enemy, accompanied by seven other spirits, entered without difficulty, and secured to himself the conquest of this nation, whose unfortunate end was worse than its beginning. For, since this unbelieving people has been blaspheming Jesus Christ, it is possessed by devils in a more cruel manner than it was in Egypt before the promulgation of the Law. At the time, when the Jews did not believe in the coming Messiah, they were less guilty than when, after His coming, they refused to acknowledge and to receive Him.

2 Responses to “Bede the Venerable’s Homily on Luke 11:14-28 for the Third Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form)”

  1. […] Bede the Venerable’s Homily on the Gospel. […]

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