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A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)  |  Fr Nicholas Crowe encourages us to move beyond survival strategies in life and to seek friendship with the ultimate Survivor, Jesus Christ.

Recently I heard the comedian Russell Brand speak about his history of drug addiction. He described his abuse of illegal substances as a kind of ‘holding pattern’. The darkness in his life terrified him. At times it seemed like the monsters of his upbringing were threatening to overwhelm him. The temporary bursts of hope and happiness that drugs elicited was just enough to stop him from capitulating under the weight of this pain. They seemed to be his last bulwark against oblivion. They held back the night for just long enough for him to breathe and to live. For this reason, the thought of giving up the drugs was terrifying. They were keeping him alive. Russell Brand was like a shipwrecked man clinging to a piece of driftwood, too frightened to let go and swim for safety. 

Brand’s story is an extreme version of a common pattern. Life can be overwhelming: there can be forces inside us that we don’t understand and that we can’t seem to control. There can be skeletons in the closet that we are afraid to go near. When everything becomes too much we often reach for survival strategies, a ‘holding pattern’ as Brand puts it that will get us through the crisis, perhaps just get us through the day.

The ‘holding pattern’ of addiction is parasitic: it can only sustain us in the present by consuming our future. And slowly but surely this capital is exhausted. Russell Brand was fortunate: when the last plank of his life raft had finally disintegrated, and he was finally forced by circumstance to face the demons of his upbringing, he found for the first time positive male role models to walk with him as he faced his fears and his wounds. And in facing the darkness, he found a spiritual light. A light that he is now exploring and trying to understand, a light in which he is beginning to find freedom.  

Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading that ‘if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand’. If there is a war going on in our mind the solution is not to cower from the fight and seek refuge in ‘holding patterns’ that at best offer a truncated existence and at worst can be actively destructive, but instead to build the kinds of relationships that will embolden us and strengthen us carry our cross, to fight the good fight, and finally find freedom. 

First of all, this means building a friendship with Jesus. St. Paul tells us in our second reading that: 

we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us.

In his resurrection Jesus conquered sin and death, he showed us that he is victorious over all evil, including the darkness in your life and in mine. If we embrace a friendship with Jesus then we embrace the love that casts out all fear and the love that can break every chain. The road might be long. We will always have to carry our cross. But if we remain united to Christ we will face our fears armed with a light that the darkness can never overcome. Paul reminds us that if we stand firm with Jesus, then: 

though this outer man of ours may be falling into decay, the inner man is renewed day by day.

And, if the best part of us is continually renewed in Christ and in the Spirit, then we will find freedom in this life or the next. 

Second, we need to become active members of Jesus’ family. We heard Jesus declare in our Gospel reading: 

Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

The will of God is that we love another as Jesus has loved us, we manifest our adoption into God’s family when like Jesus we live not for ourselves but for others. Empowered by the Spirit and in union with Jesus, we can become a gift of God to other people. If we allow God to love us, he can work through us such that we become a blessing to those around us. There is a deep joy and a deep happiness in knowing that we make the lives of others more bearable by our care and service. In loving others, we so often discover that we too are much more lovable than we ever dared to hope. And when our love is inspired by God, we glimpse the awesome love that our heavenly Father has for us as his beloved children, a love that embraces us even when we do not love ourselves, a love that is true and good and without end. 

Gen 3:9-15  |  2 Cor 4:13–5:1  |  Mark 3:20-35

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP, from the crypt of the Archabbey of St Vincent in Latrobe, PA.

Nicholas Crowe O.P.

Nicholas Crowe O.P.fr Nicholas is Director of Vocations for the English Province of the Order of Preachers, and is resident at St Dominic’s, London.
nicholas.crowe@english.op.org

Comments

Tom Dawkes commented on 07-Jun-2018 09:19 PM
I appreciate having the Torch sermons so accessible: thank you to the province.
It's a pity, though, that the psalm is not included in the list of readings: granted that it is rarely the whole psalm that is used in the Liturgy of the Word, it's nonetheless a poor relation. Yet St Augustine chose to preach on the psalms and even preached on the text when the cantor sang the wrong psalm. (Enarration in psalmos 138)
Anonymous commented on 09-Jun-2018 09:27 PM
I found this very helpful. Thanks Fr. Nicholas.
Anonymous commented on 10-Jun-2018 10:09 PM
Very inspiring. True. May I cease to seek refuge in ‘holding patterns’. Amen, and thanks.

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