In our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, God is lamenting the sins of the people. “They did not obey…They walked in the hardness of their hearts and turned their backs, and not their faces, to me.” God was especially disappointed since he had protected them and had done so much for them. But there was no reform on their part. They “have stiffened their necks” and continued to ignore the prophets and wallowed in their lives of sin.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was mute by expelling a demon from him. Like the people in Jeremiah’s time, his present listeners witnessed Jesus’ miracle of healing but “in their hardness of hearts” they refused to accept him. Instead they speculated on how and with whose help he achieved the miraculous.
The first explanation was to attribute his power to perform miracles to Beelzebul. Jesus shows them the contradiction in such a theory. “Every Kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his Kingdom stand?” For a parallel to the fallacy in their argumentation one has only to look to the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq today.
Others test him demanding he show his power by performing miracles that surpass anything ever done before. Satan is the one who holds the person dumb. So Jesus drives the demon out of him and restores the man’s speech. The obvious conclusion is that Jesus is stronger than Satan. So he certainly wouldn’t be looking for help from an inferior and one who is evil besides.
The Pharisees found Jesus their superior. But unable to accept that fact, they became jealous of him. Their next move was to try to discredit him. It was only natural that they would turn to calumny hoping to tear Jesus down.
Like the Pharisees we all have a human tendency to compare ourselves with others, especially competitors. Whenever this comparing takes place the Pharisee’s dilemma threatens to repeat itself. If we judge others to be better or think they are better than ourselves, jealousy follows. Then the one-upmanship begins by discrediting the rivals. The preferred technique is by way of calumny and/or detraction. And once again “Pharisees” are alive and well in our midst.
Our challenge is to refrain from comparing ourselves with others. Ignore the comments made by others. And confidently await God’s advice: “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you will be my people.” Never forget. As God’s people we are all loved sinners and in his eyes our value is inestimable.
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