Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Parables of Jesus: Return of the Unclean Spirit

Matthew 12:43-45:

[43] And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. [44] Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. [45] Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation.

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Now and forever. Amen.
Boy oh boy, hasn't it been a while? Summer was very busy. Then I was working two jobs. Well, I figured it was about time I got back to this. If you were wondering where I was, I apologize, and I thank you for your patience.
So, if you've read my last post recently, you'll realize that I've already talked about this passage. In my post on "The Tree and Its Fruit", I talked about the fact that the house in this passage refers to ourselves, and the house swept and garnished house is a man living with virtue, but being empty, he is devoid of the life of grace, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, since I have already talked about this, I will talk instead about another layer of meaning that the passage holds. Whether we're talking about this, or any other passage in the Bible, there is never one single meaning that it holds. God's Word is layered with meaning, and you can reflect on each teaching of Scripture time and again and take something new from it, something deeper, every time.

As I like to say, context is everything. So what's the context here? Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for their unbelief and testing of Jesus. They are trying to trap Jesus in an error, in a sin. But Jesus responds by revealing His authority, and His greatness. "And behold a greater than Jonas here[...] and behold a greater than Solomon here."

This is the wider context. So, while Jesus' teaching can be understood on an individual basis, for we are indeed Temples (houses) of the Holy Spirit, His teaching is given in the context of the House of Israel. In this teaching, Jesus says repeatedly, "this generation". So, it isn't even just a rebuke of the Pharisees, but of Israel at large.

And Jesus doesn't make this criticism once, but many times, especially in His parables of the vineyard. Throughout the history of God's Covenants with man, God remains faithful, but man does not. In each generation, God sends His prophets, His angels to warn the people against their sins, to turn back to Him in faithfulness, remembering the promises of God, and the inheritance of their forefathers.

Repeatedly, God comes to His people to drive out wickedness from them. His desire is to turn their hearts back to Him, that Israel might be His dwelling place. He desires to live among His people. This manifests most tangibly in the Tabernacle of the Temple, where God's presence resides in the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies.

As a people, as a nation, as a Kingdom, God chose to dwell in their midst. He was the heart and soul of Israel, and their whole lives revolved around Him, around worship in His temple, around the seasons and holy days according to the Law. He permeated their lives.

But, when Jesus came to Israel, what did He find? "An evil and adulterous generation." Yahweh had come to drive out devils from the house of Israel, but the devils came back and made Israel worse off. The Roman occupation was symbolic of this. As a nation and as a kingdom, Israel's history shows us that whenever Israel turned away from God, were unfaithful to the Covenant, God allowed a neighboring power to come in and occupy their land. When Israel turned back to God and remained faithful to the Covenant, they were liberated, and Israel became strong again.

In this generation, Rome had occupied Israel, a symbol of their unfaithfulness. To bring God's people back to Himself, He always sent them a prophet, who was often not well received. And in this instance, it was not any different. The Pharisees and the people of Israel left their house empty. They turned their backs on God, and drove Him from their midst. They turned His temple into a market, as they assimilated into Roman society. They were adulterous because they courted Roman cult and culture. The Jewish leaders made deals with the Roman rulers. The Jewish people wanted liberation, but were not interested in turning their hearts back to God.

So, God departed from them. The devil who had been driven out represents the occupying nations from Israel's history, and the Romans are the return of that devil, and more, since the Romans brought with them all the cultures they had conquered: the Greeks, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, etc. And that tangible realization of God in their midst, the Temple, was destroyed by the Romans. God departed from them.

But Jesus instituted a Church, a new house, built on the Rock of Peter, the Rock who is Jesus, Himself. Against this house the gates of Hell will not prevail. No devils will prevail against this house. This Church will house the Holy Spirit, who will never depart from it, because the Church is Jesus, Himself, who cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, the Church is not exclusively Jesus. It is made up of imperfect members. Both individually and as a visible body. Therefore, we should take the warning and take it seriously. We must be a holy people, a Kingdom that is not adulterous. We should not unite ourselves to the world. Our cult and culture should be distinct. We ought not to conform ourselves to the world, but ought conform the world to Jesus Christ.

Let the Lord stand at the center of our Church, our kingdom, our nations, our families, our lives. Let our lives revolve around the Mass, the Liturgical Seasons and Holy Days. Let the Lord dwell in our hearts and in our homes and in our churches and in our legislatures and in our courts and in our universities. If we do not, the Lord will depart from us.

Thank you for reading.

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