Daily Reflection
October 13th, 2000
Greg Carlson, S.J.
Classical & Near Eastern Studies

Galatians 3:7-14
Psalms 111:1-6
Luke 11:15-26

"If by the finger of God I cast out devils, the kingdom of God has overtaken you."

The Jesus of the Gospels ends up often being a confrontative person, and he plays that role again in today's Gospel.  People in the crowd see his power and assign it to demonic influence.  He speaks up, with plenty of emotion, to dramatize the absurdity of their accusation. 

Could we pray today with Jesus the confronter?

For me, Jesus comes into ministry seeking not to confront but to invite, to engage, and to announce good news to people who need good news.  His first instincts are to touch, to heal, and to embrace.  In words, his first instincts are to enshrine good news in a story or image that will include and console people, especially those who have felt left out.

Jesus had received an empowering call at his baptism to live the role of the suffering servant described in the late chapters of Isaiah.  He went into the desert to pray his way into this role.  The role called him not to cry out or shout but rather to encourage, to bind up the bruised reed and to blow the smoldering wick into burning. 

From his very first days of finding himself in this role, he encountered a surprising experience.  He heard in himself a voice that said "I can give you what you seek, but by a different route.  My route is clearer, stronger, more dramatic, more secure."  To be faithful to his new role, Jesus had first to confront that demonic voice within.  He opted early for a gentleness that was neither soft nor weak.  I think, to his surprise, he learned that some voices need to be addressed clearly, immediately, and firmly.  Those are the seductive voices that coopt God's gentle initiatives and make them into means for humans to live as though they were in control.  When Jesus hears a Siren song promising that humans live by the bread that they produce, or by kingdoms that they control, or by achievements that draw attention to themselves, his reaction is instantaneous.  His answer is clear, pointed, and firm:  We live from God.  Day after day, we let God's finger touch us and God's kingdom overtake us.

I have my Siren songs that I have heard a hundred times in my life, and the best way for me to bring God's gentleness further into my life is to confront them.  I have gone down their alluring paths often enough to know that they lead away from peace.  Many of us will avoid confrontation whenever we can in life, but we learn to recognize some seductive voices.  We know the pain of listening to those voices and being led by them to hurt ourselves and others.  And so we learn to confront these voices first in ourselves and then, like Jesus, even in others.  Where we struggle most with the lure of those voices, we need to keep finding the kingdom of God overtaking us.

The human struggle made Jesus into a confronter that he never planned to be.  May he help us to confront well wherever we need to!

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