Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2
There is something about the human condition that compels us to judge, define and separate "them" from "us". This happens among nations, within countries, communities and churches where decisions are made based on who is with us, who is against us, who supports what is good and who fosters what is evil. Sadly even within families there are arguments and alienation over who is getting more or less and who is favored by mom and dad. Where there are divisions, fear and hostility are inevitable and history has shown that suspicion and fear of the other is the direct cause of war, destruction, killing, and the resulting death of innocents.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is being judged by people in the crowd and accused of being one of "them", the devils who torment the Jews with sickness and brokenness. Others wanted him to prove by a marvelous sign that he was one of "us". But Jesus refused to be drawn into the them/us dichotomy by defining his "side" for the crowd. He challenged them to look at the results of what he was accomplishing and to be honest in their assessment of what they were experiencing. Was he from Beelzebul or was he from God? They were not to let the fear of who they thought he was distort their recognition of his true identity.
Separation of what should be unified brings the destruction that has been with us since the Garden of Eden. Jesus states the obvious to the crowd: A kingdom divided against itself is laid waste. A house torn by dissension falls. These were realities from the peoples’ experience. And the cycle of fear and the quest for ever greater power led to an arms race even in biblical times in which one strong man was overpowered by a stronger man and on and on. Divisions based on fear lead to disaster for all.
Yet the whole purpose of the incarnation of God in Jesus was to reconnect and to bring unity between God and humanity. The healing miracles brought wholeness to bodies and lives that had been torn apart by illness. The miracles of forgiveness returned unity to relationships what had been split by sin. And today we are even more aware of the reality of the interconnectedness of all creation and the fatal danger of separation from and abuse of, what was perceived to be objective "others" of earth, water and air. When tempted to make divisions into sides of "them" and "us" and make enemies of the "other", may we all keep in mind the picture taken on one of the early space flights of the planet earth and the absolute wholeness and unity of all of God’s creation.
Cathy Anthony, M.Div. is on the staff of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.