Readings: Genesis 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
The scribes in today’s Gospel seem to view the demonic as an exterior force of quantifiable power that could be enlisted like a military reserve. Perhaps their notion of God is equally externalized–and equally threatening.
Yet God dwells in each of us and is the foundation of our being; the devil is only a creature and does not dwell within us. Just as my will can allow or deny God into my living, so I could make evil a part of my life. I have to collaborate and internalize the devil’s work; similarly, I could internalize and incarnate God’s work. But that’s where the resemblance ends. The devil, like any tyrant, only has as much power as I allow him. God’s authority and power is not determined by me.
Now, my weaknesses may dispose me–without any initiative from Satan–to make bad choices; or to fly to God’s mercy. Yes, my weakness doesn’t guarantee that I’ll do wrong but could actually lead me to God. I don’t think that’s emphasized enough.
The scribes are not the only ones who are mistaken; so is Jesus’ family. In their culture, anything abnormal is considered demonic–that’s the narrative thread linking these two episodes.
If we may be less prone to think like that, our family dynamics may not be very different. Jesus’ family approach him as a mad man, failing to recognize his God-driven ministry. But aren’t they doing the devil’s work, even if motivated by real concern? Isn’t that what we do in families?
It’s very sobering. That’s a prime example of how human weakness does the devil’s work for him. We think we know what’s up, but we haven’t understood.
Mark is writing for a struggling community. If Mark is hard on Peter, in many episodes, or the family of Jesus, in this passage, remember that his community knew Peter as the strong and brave leader who brought them their faith. They knew of Mary or James as the dynamic core of the Church in Jerusalem. With his negative examples, Mark is only saying that’s not how Peter, James or Mary started out. They were like us: uncertain, afraid, fumbling through the best intentions.
We don’t have to be stuck there. Why can’t we, too, end up like them? Why can’t our mistakes teach us to become pillars of Christ’s Church?