Jl 1:13-15; 2:1-2; Ps 9:2,3,6,8,9,16; Lk 11:15-26
The only one who evokes heartfelt thanks is the LORD, the Most High. We do not hesitate to declare his wondrous deeds or to sing praise to his Holy Name. Why such jubilation? The LORD alone judges the world with justice. He alone governs the peoples with fairness. The God of justice for the poor rebukes nations; He destroys the wicked in every land and every time. Their names are blotted out forever and ever. The nations have sunk deeply into the pits they have dug, and their feet are caught in the snare they have set for others. The LORD sits enthroned in justice and truth. He has set up his throne for judgment. The prophet, Joel, warns every land and people, “For near is the day of the LORD, and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.” The Lord Jesus has the same warning for those who marvel at his casting out the evil one; he makes it clear that casting out demons is a sign of just how near is the Kingdom of God. At this Liturgy, we celebrate the victory already won upon the Cross of Christ and in his glorious resurrection. Indeed, our prayer is answered; for where ever the king is there is the Kingdom.
The prophet Joel does not hold back. His urgency creates a real emergency among those who worship in the Temple of the LORD. Weep priests! Wail ministers! Come and spend the night in vigil and wear sackcloth because the house of God is deprived of offering and libation. All the people from youngest to eldest must respond to the sound of the alarm on God’s holy mountain. For soon there will be just judgment; soon the darkness, gloom, clouds and somberness will fill every hour of the day! “Like dawn spreading over the mountains, a people numerous and mighty! Their like has not been from of old, nor will it be after them, even to the years of distant generations.” Joel paints a dark picture of the future. This is a darkness for which generations of unfaithfulness have prepared the people. The LORD is about to send the judgment of exile upon his people. No more Promised Land, no more tribal identity, no more royal dynasty, no more holy priesthood, no more holy temple, nothing remains. Such darkness seems overwhelming, but it is a purifying fire. Many in Israel thought the fire would be reserved for their enemies, but they had become their own worst enemy. This purification is not without pain, but the pain is worth it.
In his ministry of casting out demons, the Lord Jesus is bringing to the surface so much pain. Early on during the exodus, the people accused the LORD of being demonic. They called him monstrous for having brought them out of Egypt into a desert—with no water and no food—so that they might perish. Such an accusation is not unlike what the leaders of the people bring up about the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel. All through Saint Luke, the authenticity of his ministry as the New Moses, the new prophet, is questioned. Here they accuse him of operating under the power of Beelzebul. Because he has some king of alliance with the prince of demons, he can tell some demons what to do. Perhaps this extreme accusation is motivated by the fact that they could not cast out demons. This possibility makes sense especially in light of the challenge the Lord Jesus has for them, “If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” The Lord Jesus continues to reveal the fire of God’s judgment upon demons and those with whom they cooperate. Not only do his accusers receive the Lord’s challenge; everyone in the crowd can relate to the rest of his teaching. The Lord Jesus makes it clear that if you do not want seven more demons to return to come and abide in your clean interior dwelling, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. Uprooting vice and destroying injustice in life is not enough. We must plant virtue and support justice in the soul and in the world.