A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
This Sunday, as we witness the power of our Saviour over the demons, as we watch the ‘stronger man’ come and proclaim the Kingdom of God with a divine might and authority, our sense of conviction, our Christian calling to ‘draw near to God,’ (James 4:8), also receives a new and clearer focus. “Be ye therefore followers of God,” Paul tells us, “and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.”
As we acclimatize to the rigours of the wilderness, and as we leave behind the stench and struggle of the earthly city, our troubled minds and bodies begin to find space and time to be renewed in the power and presence of our Lord. We begin to sense more keenly how He is not only the light of truth, which may overwhelm us with its uncompromising perfection, but that His light is also life. His truth and wisdom are our life and salvation, which serve to bless and comfort us, ‘as dear children.’ This is a crucial discovery. Without it, all of our faithful efforts in discipleship will be moved by duty and obligation, rather than devotion and joy—and therefore neither knowing, nor able to share, the grace and peace which the secure disciple knows.
How shall we make our way through this stage of our conversion, this further step in our earthly passage of faith into the Kingdom of Heaven? It is a curious thing, how today’s Gospel makes the point so simply, while at the same time, never saying it out loud. Jesus is at pains for His hearers and us not to be misled in the spiritual landscape, where demons confront and assault us, where angels are sent to aid us, and where God has power to save: “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth the spoils.” Jesus, having just demonstrated His power over the demons, stands as the stronger man; He is the light that shines in darkness, and is not overcome. Yet His victory alone is no guarantee of our peace. “then [the demon] goes and takes to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in, and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Freedom is more than the defeat of an enemy: it is the establishment of a new life and goodness in the soul’s free devotion to its true love. The Stronger Man must be freely offered welcome in the heart’s dwelling place, the house of the soul. The light of the world must be offered a home within us–and in that act of spiritual welcome, the home becomes undivided, secure against the evils that would do it harm, we become ‘children of light’ and the ‘sweet smelling savour’ of true life and liberty pervades us with its beauty. And this state, then, will be better than the first.