The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
10 June 2018
Genesis 3, 9-15 + Psalm 130 + 2 Corinthians 4, 13 to 5,1 + Mark 3, 20-35
We see something in these verses today that ought to make us sigh with disappointment and frustration. Disappointment as we realize how long this behavior has been going on, and frustration because it continues and because sometimes we get caught up in it ourselves which is not helping move this world toward peace and justice. This is a kind of behavior that to this day continues to tear apart the fabric of unity that is in the mind of God. It is a behavior that borders on the unforgivable and is a sin against the Holy Spirit. One look at what is happening in this story, and we recognize it. The scribes who have come all the way from Jerusalem are demonizing Jesus. This whole business of demonizing an opponent or someone who does not think, act, or say things we like is still going on today, and looking at it through the lens of this Gospel is important. Demonizing someone dehumanizes that person making it easy to kill them because they are no longer seen as a human being. This demonizing has been used by zealots and tyrants as a tactic to legitimize war atrocities in the past and to this day. Torture and genocide is only possible when the other has been dehumanized. It’s how you get a human being to take the life of another. It is easy when you think your opponent is evil which is what made it so easy for the Scribes and Pharisees to take the life of Jesus. They declared him evil calling him Satan.
Throughout human history, the relationships of individuals and groups as been disrupted by this demonization which results in constant suspicion and blame with a systematic disregard of any positive events. There is pressure to eradicate the demonized person. In the face of this behavior, people of faith should rise up in protest and challenge the demonization others. For people of faith to get caught up in this reveals a serious failure of faith. Yet, this behavior has become the norm in politics with enormous harm done to whole groups of peoples. Families are torn apart because a whole ethnic group has been demonized, and that is just the most frequent example that comes to mind at the moment.
Psychologists believe that when demonization happens, there is “cognitive impairment” meaning simply that people stop thinking and with that they stop talking. When someone has been demonized, anything good they may have done, or still be doing, is ignored or dismissed. Jesus may heal and comfort, but because he touches women, lepers, and comes to the aid of those in need on the Sabbath, he is the enemy of good religious people, and he must go. Is there any thinking or reasoning here in this conflict? No. The scribes are blind to what and who is right in front of them.
Meanwhile, outside the house there is another group, and the way Mark crafts this episode is important. The conflict is going on inside, and there is a group outside who just want to take him away. They do nothing to stop what is really wrong here. They just want to save their own skins because Jesus is bringing a “bad rap” to their name and their town. At which point, Jesus reveals the universal nature of his mission and even though those scribes, those name-callers, those demonizers chose to destroy any relationship with Jesus, he holds out and reveals the new relationship that those will enjoy who choose the Kingdom of God.
That unforgivable sin, that sin against the Holy Spirit, is in evidence here. It is the refusal to be open to new revelation. Assuming the role of God those scribes declared that Jesus could not possibly be revealing the divine because, in spite of the life-giving works he performed, he did not fit their categories or follow their interpretation of the law or agree with their ideology which had long before stopped being theology. Their blasphemy was that they had divinized their ideology. As long as they maintained that position, they kept themselves safe from any disturbance by the Holy Spirit and the possibility of change and forgiveness. We all need to hear and heed this Gospel today, so that our minds and our hearts might be open wide to the work of the Spirit which is calling us over and over again to unity and to peace. It will never be found among people who treat others as though they were Satan.