Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
Though Jesus assures us that even a mustard seed’s worth of faith can move mountains, we may often experience feelings of inadequacy, weakness, and even fear in the face of life’s challenges, both “real” and “spiritual.” Today we hear of one of the many stories of exorcism found in the Gospel, Jesus speaking of the “strong man” who keeps his “possessions” safe, until a stronger man conquers him. Today we are reminded that there is an Enemy, and he plays for keeps. Will our mustard seed faith be enough to resist our opponent?
Jesus has done yet another amazing thing—casting out a demon—that makes His opponents realize that He may indeed be the real deal. To challenge Him, they accuse Him of being in league with the Devil, and thus He can command demons to leave because He has authority over them, as inferior soldiers must obey their officers. How hard, we might wonder, must a heart be to make such an accusation?
But Jesus has an answer. He speaks of Satan’s kingdom—clearly the Devil has a great deal of power in the world—and points out that no kingdom at war with itself survives. If the Devil has given the power to defeat his own soldiers to one of his own, then the Devil has shot himself in the foot. If, however, Jesus drives out demons by the power of God—His own power—then the reign of Satan has ended; the Kingdom of God is come upon them, like a tidal wave of glory and power, like the dawn that catches the thief unaware.
This image of the strong man keeping his possessions safe; the highest level of demonic influence is referred to as possession. Before Christ established the reign of God, Satan was the strong, fully armed master of the world. We look around the world and see one evil after the other, and how quickly our hearts shrink to the size of a mustard seed in fear! We forget that a stronger man—Jesus Christ—has overcome Satan, has broken his crown and usurped his throne, taking away those souls he possessed one-by-one. We are now under the reign of mercy, grace, and freedom; gone are the chains of accusation, condemnation, and slavery.
Just because Satan has been dethroned does not mean he is no longer a threat; remember his greatest sin is pride, and the recapture of his empire—lost cause as it is—is his obsession. Jesus warns us that the Enemy may attack again in greater strength, and move in. Here’s what we often miss: how could these malevolent spirits “move in” unless the house were unoccupied? Our hearts are meant to be a place where God can dwell; if God does not reign in our hearts, someone must, as the heart was never meant to be empty. Even if our love of God is but a mustard seed, even if the door to our heart is only open a crack, it is enough for Him to enter and make Himself at home, and crowded enough that the Enemy cannot rule it.