I was led to St. John’s homily (no. 41) on Matthew 12:25-26, in which the Lord was accused of casting out demons with the help of Beelzebub. This came to mind this morning as I was reading the gospel in church in which a few chapters earlier (this morning’s reading was from 9:27:35) He was accused of the very same thing, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons” (v. 34). I’ve been pondering on these words today since my sermon was not on this topic. But perhaps next year it will be, and so in this post are mainly notes I’m leaving for myself which, as usual, I’ll probably never use.
It’s a silly accusation as St. Chrysostom bluntly points out, “envy seeks not what to say, but only that it may say somewhat.” And in the end when He sat down to rebuke them He doesn’t do it by using Scripture, which St. John points out they can easily misinterpret, but by beginning with, “Every kingdom divided against itself…”. That is, He uses events from ordinary life: kingdoms, wars, etc. “For the wars from without are not so ruinous as the civil ones.”
And in His rebuke of these thoughts of the Pharisees He adds, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men”. Why the Son of Man? Because “Him indeed they knew not, who He might be, but of the Spirit they received ample experience. For the prophets also by the Spirit said whatever they said; and indeed all in the Old Testament had a very high notion of Him.” And so, some are punished only here and not in the hereafter, but others will be punished both here and in the hereafter:
“For so of men, some are punished both here, and there, some here only, some there only, others neither here nor there. Here and there, as these very men (for both here did they pay a penalty, when they suffered those incurable ills at the taking of their city, and there shall they undergo a very grievous one), as the inhabitants of Sodom; as many others. There only, as the rich man who endured the flames, and had not at his command so much as a drop of water. Here, as he that had committed fornication among the Corinthians. Neither here nor there, as the apostles, as the prophets, as the blessed Job; for their sufferings were not surely in the way of punishment, but as contests and wrestlings.”
Advice for those that don’t want to be punished neither here nor there: Pass judgment on yourself. “Listen to Paul” says the golden-mouth, “when he says, ‘If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.'” Count not only the big things: fornication, adultery, etc. “But lay together your secret crafts and your false accusations, and your evil speakings and your vainglory, and your envy, and all such things.”
“Account not then these things to be little, but put all together, and write them as in a book. For if you write them down, God blots them out; even as on the other hand, if you omit writing them, God both inscribes them, and exacts their penalty. It were then far better for them to be written by us, and blotted out above, than on the contrary, when we have forgotten them, for God to bring them before our eyes in that day.”
“How then can one be saved? It may be asked. By application of the countervailing remedies: alms, prayers, compunction, repentance, humility, a contrite heart, contempt of possessions. For God has marked out for us innumerable ways of salvation, if we be willing to attend. Let us then attend, and let us every way cleanse out our wounds, showing mercy, remitting our anger against them that have displeased us, giving thanks for all things to God, fasting according to our power, praying sincerely, “making unto ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.” For so shall we be able to obtain pardon for our offenses, and to win the promised good things; whereof may we all be counted worthy, by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.”
Read St. John’s Homily 41 here