Monday, January 23, 2017

Doing the Devil's work

That's what the scribes in today's Gospel accused Jesus of: "By the prince of demons he drives out demons." Jesus answers them with a bit of rhetoric that is just as valid today as it ever was: If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

This weekend the United States showed itself to the world as a "house divided." We had the inauguration of a President who ran a campaign of divisiveness (his rhetoric pitted his own party's candidates against each other until he was the only one was left standing). The election itself (with the electoral college going one way and the popular vote the other) highlighted the divisions in the country even more. Then, in response to the new President's history of loutish words and deeds against the dignity of women, millions (around the world!) marched for women. But organizers of the Women's March, too, led a "house divided," refusing to accept pro-life women's organizations as partners. In other cities, pro-life events were held to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and split the United States to this day.
In the Bible, the enemy of human nature goes by several names. He is (as in today's passage) "Beelzebul" (beel/baal means "Lord": one who claims complete authority), "the Satan" (enemy), "the devil" (accuser, slanderer). We do the devil's work every time we cast another person or group as the adversary, increasing the distance between "us" and "them" until they are all but impossible to bridge.

That is what made the participation of so many pro-life women and groups in the Women's Marches so admirable. Yes, the organizers of the March will continue to claim to speak for "all women" (with their very divisive message). We can't control their message, but those women who joined with other women this weekend refused to accept the status quo of a house divided. They took a step into the breach--and for a few brief moments, the world paid attention to them. Who knows how many other privately pro-life women in those marches took courage from seeing normal, youthful and positive representatives marching both for women and for life?

Today the US Bishops ask Catholics to observe a day of prayer and penance for the legal protection of unborn human life. On Friday, the annual March for Life will be another occasion to affirm the value of human life in a way that does not divide or condemn, but that invites everyone to a deeper appreciation of the gift of life "from conception to natural death."

Jesus has already won the victory over death, and he won it for all of us, but we do not proclaim that victory if we are intent on doing it the way the devil does: by dividing. Today, pay attention to the way words, slogans and policies do the devil's work--and be on the lookout for words that instead step into the breach, casting out the devils of non-communication, of accusation, of epithets, and affirming the good that every human heart can't help but desire.

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