Our Inner “Beast”
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus performs a healing miracle which gains him opposition rather then adulation. In restoring the gift of speech to a mute man He discovers that “demons” which control a person’s extremities are far easier to exorcise then the demons that lodge themselves in the depths of the human heart.
In a 1954 novel by William Golding, we are introduced to “The Lord of the Flies”, a so called “beast” after which the novel is titled. The “beast” refers to the inner demon inside of us that creates chaos from order and drives us to hate instead of love and to strive for power instead of practicing compassion. On the surface it appears as a survival instinct but later reveals itself to be a destroyer. The same name, although in its Hebrew translation, is the one that the people refer to in the Gospel today as the ruler of the demons, Beelzebul.
The people who witness the healing miracle accuse Jesus of healing in the name of Beelzebul. But Jesus can see that it is really they who are possessed by cynicism and doubt and he proceeds to confront them with their own irrational arguments.. They are caught in their own desperate situations and cannot allow themselves to trust that Jesus is from God. Their discomfort in the presence of Jesus reminds us that there is a bit of the “beast” in us all.
We pride ourselves on being civilized and compassionate but, as Golding’s novel points out, how quickly we degenerate to a mode of self-preservation when crisis strikes. The recent earthquake in Haiti showed how easily it can happen as images of food stealing and looting were revealed in the days following the catastrophe.
It doesn’t take a natural disaster though to reveal our dark side. How often do we find ourselves in the coffee room talking Gossip behind the backs of others, causing personal harm in so many subtle ways? We don’t discover it until we are alone again and realize that we have once again fallen into the trap of belittling others in an attempt to raise ourselves in the eyes of our colleagues.
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that if we persist in turning our backs on God we will cut ourselves off from him and the beast will win, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though there is an impulse to take that path we don’t have to go in that direction. Jesus makes clear in his explanation of how evil works that, while its hold is powerful we can rise above it, with God’s help it will be overcome.
Jesus is also quick to warn that the dispelling of evil is not a one time fix. It is an ongoing concern and we must do what we can to aid in that struggle. By being prayerful people and filling our hearts with good spiritual food we will go far in ensuring that we do not stumble and fall. The beast will not prevail.
We are half –way through Lent. Recommit yourself to this season of conversion.
Turn your ear from Gossip today, offer praise to someone who could use a lift up.