The Gospel according to Luke (11: 14-23)
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “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 you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, you are meek and humble of heart, but you are also powerful and mighty (Matthew 11:29, Ephesians 1:21). Come to my heart and reign there always as my King.
Encountering Christ: I remember as a young child I would imagine heaven as a place where “good” people go and spend eternity floating around on a cloud playing a harp. As I continued to grow older my concept of heaven changed from harp playing, cloud floating, white robed people with wings into something a little more sophisticated. Maybe like rolling hills, covered in flowers with beautiful trees, fresh streams, and beautiful skies, etc.
However, although my perception changed, maybe matured, it stayed the same in perceiving heaven as a place. It appears that in today’s gospel we are witness to a scene where Jesus is trying to convey a message that identifies heaven as a person not a place. He says that the kingdom of God has come upon them. So, let’s think about why he says this and why we may perceive heaven as the presence of God.
There are many times Jesus drives out demons, this one being slightly different because the possessed man was mute. Once released the man spoke and the crowed was amazed. Maybe not so much because the man spoke but because they could not bring themselves to believe that God was in their midst. They were so blind they began to accuse Jesus of working for the devil, Beelzebul. They must have reasoned that only someone with demonic powers could cast out a demon. I can only imagine Jesus trying to explain why it would not seem reasonable for Satan to undo something evil. He must have done this calmly and with the confidence of one who does not need to convince anyone he is the Son of God and it is only through the will of God that evil is overcome. It is not by some great physical, earthly force that Jesus frees this man from this evil bondage. It is by a mere finger that God is able to deliver this man from his suffering.
God the Son was in their midst providing this man a different life than he had been living. One of liberation and happiness rather than bondage and suffering. A life that has all the elements for total redemption, a peace that surpasses all understanding, and joy to the full. This sounds like heaven to me. What do you think?
Until we walk through the door, we will all eventually reach and find out what awaits us, it may help to focus on who waits for us. As the popular song “I Can Only Imagine” reminds us, we will be so happy we won’t think about where we are, we will hardly be able to contain ourselves. Will we dance, kneel, sing, or simply be in awe?! What will we do in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.?
Why wait. Why don’t we recognize Jesus present to us now, in the Holy Eucharist, in each other, and in the many ways he makes his presence known so that we can experience heaven on earth as a preview of what is to come for those who trust, believe, and participate in his will.
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us see you in the face of our family, friends, and even our enemies. May we accept the grace you offer in so many ways and cooperate with the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Action for the Day: Be the heaven someone needs today. There is plenty of suffering and heartache in need of transformation. In the midst of the good and the bad remind others, maybe even yourself, that Jesus is ready to give us glimpses of heaven (himself) in the smiles, hugs (air hugs for now), and love we can share with anyone at any time.