A homily by Lawrence Lew, OP:
HOMILY for 27th Fri per annum (II)
Gal 3:7-14 ; Ps 110 ; Luke 11:15-26
Does all this talk of demons and Satan and unclean spirits trouble you? Whenever I have given talks about angels, people seem more fascinated by demons, and the last time I gave a talk about the Devil, I think the group of young working professionals in Oxford became quite worried – it was all they could talk about at the pub afterwards! And yet, we have nothing to fear or worry about if we just recall Christ’s words to us in yesterday’s Gospel. It ended with this promise: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13) It is this promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he who is called in today’s Gospel “the finger of God” (Lk 11:20) and “One Stronger than he” (Lk 11:22), that leads us into today’s Gospel passage. And so, we can read it without worry or fear if we recall Jesus’ promise.
But do we ask our loving Father to give us the Spirit? Or maybe, more than our fear for the unclean spirits, we fear the disruption to our lives that the Holy Spirit might bring? It’s stiking, isn’t it, that the palace guarded by the strong man, that is, the devil, has its “goods [ ] in peace”. And again, the unclean spirit returns to a house “swept and put in order” (Lk 11:25). But the peace and order that Jesus refers to here is not a good kind – it is complacency. Here, Jesus depicts a soul that is comfortable but also, it would seem, uninhabited. It is possible that through life we acquire certain habits and ways of thinking; we become comfortable with our behaviour and our attitudes so that we barely question them; we are at peace with our venial sins and content with a sinful world. We may not be bad people, but we’ve just become quite comfortable with being mediocre, lukewarm. “We’re only human”, we say and we’re quite satisfied with that excuse. And yet, in the book of the Apocalypse, the Spirit says to those who are “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth”! (3:16) The Holy Spirit will not dwell in lukewarm souls; unclean spirits do. So, let us ask our heavenly Father to give us the Holy Spirit!
However, a warning: If we ask God to send the Holy Spirit into our lives and we mean this, then we are asking for our lives to become a lot less comfortable. There will be some disturbance, a struggle against our sinful habits, a fight against our former ways of behaving, a rebellion against the popular assumptions of our contemporary secular society. For the Holy Spirit brings the flaming ardour of God’s love to heat us up and change our lives, and the Holy Spirit comes as a rushing wind to stir things up and to disturb our sleeping consciences. But the Holy Spirit also comes to dwell in us as our Counsellor so that we begin to see things as God does and love what he loves. But his voice is ever so quiet and can only be heart in stillness and silent prayer. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us as our Advocate so that he defends us against the attacks of the Devil and keeps the unclean spirits evicted. But we have to co-operate with him and be vigilant, examining our consciences daily and going to Confession regularly. And the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us as our Helper. So we need not fear, but let us ask for his help, ask for God’s grace by praying to our heavenly Father and saying: “Lord, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts”. Amen.
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