Today’s gospel has an ominous and fearsome tone. After casting out a demon, Jesus is confronted by the crowd’s reaction that he drives out demons, “by the power of Belzebul, the prince of demons.” To which he replies, “If Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” These are the words that President Abraham Lincoln made famous amid the terrible situation in an America divided by civil war; as such they are a reminder of an ominous chapter of history.
The passage goes on to describe a scenario about the journey of an unclean spirit having been expelled from someone: about “roaming through arid regions,” looking for rest, but finding none it returns but brings with it “seven other spirits.” What a fearsome prospect! It brings up thoughts of dire and chaotic events for the person thus afflicted and for those around him.
We have all been reminded in these past months about the chaos caused by natural disasters such as the tsunami in Asia and the recent devastation of the hurricanes in the Gulf States. It’s difficult even to wrap our minds around the devastation caused by such events in the lives of the people involved because of the magnitude of the disaster.
Truly our hearts go out to those people and their families as they suffer the indignities of such situations. We are comforted by the aid provided by persons who involve themselves so generously right on the scene. But we know, too, that for so many the aid is like so many Band-Aids applied to a deeply wounded body – too little and too late.
Where is God in situations like this and many others, events that bear deep and profound grieving? My faith challenges me to discover that God is right there IN the suffering experienced by the survivors. Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel’s account of the people in the concentration camp forced to witness the hanging of several persons comes to mind. After a long while watching the young men suffer and die slowly in front of them, someone in the crowd retorted, “Where is God now?” After a bit, another responded, “God is hanging up there right in front of us!”
In situations like natural disasters and the immediate results of moral evil such as the genocide of the holocaust we are confronted with concrete situations today’s gospel describes. Our faith, sometimes beleaguered by catastrophic events like these, needs to rest in a God who suffers with us.
Lord, help us as our faith is stretched and tested by events that boggle our minds and hearts. Help us to see that indeed you are in and with those who suffer so grievously in Asia and in the Gulf region today as you have been in the human suffering of the past. Jesus, you know suffering and pain. Be with our sisters and brothers now in their great grief.
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