One day Jesus was driving out a demon, which was mute. When the demon had been driven out, the mute person could speak, and the people were amazed. Yet some of them said, “He drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put him to the test, by asking him for a heavenly sign.
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.
But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God, has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me, scatters.“
Today’s gospel invites us to reflect on the gift and the power of speech. We are presented with two opposing images: a mute who lacks the power of speech but was able to speak again after Jesus drove out the demon from the person; and the religious people who used their power of speech to engage in rumor-mongering, spreading rumors that Jesus’ power was from Beelzebul, the “lord of the dung heap.” They did not dispute Jesus’ power to heal and to drive out demons; they wanted to discredit him by spreading a slanderous rumor about the source of his power. Jesus used the demonic experience to confront the idiotic slanderous rumors the Pharisees had planted in people’s minds. He wanted people to realize that slander may be worse than a demon. It has the power to divide people against one another, poisoning the minds of the hearers and causing them to doubt the truth. Rumors will spread like wild fire for as long as there are rumormongers. How do we use the gift of speech that God has given us? Do we use it to affirm goodness and proclaim truth or do we use it to spread lies and half-truths?
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