[I'm not preaching this Oculi - Pr. GeRue will have the honors at St. Paul this time round - but here is a homily for this Sunday from yesteryear upon the Gospel text: Luke 11:14-28]
Isn’t it weird? If you set out to be free and to live your life with no constraints and just do your own thing whenever and wherever you want, you end up a slave. Your own appetites end up ruling you and you have to obey them. You think: oh, just a little won’t hurt, and before long, you’re hooked, and Satan and his minions are having a field day with you. Porn. Drugs. Alcohol. Food. Gossip. Adultery. You name it. Freedom? Heck, no. Doing your own thing is just the broad and easy way that leads to your own destruction, to pain for those around you, and finally to death itself.
And yet is it not equally true that the path to real freedom is precisely in being Christ’s slave, His servant? A slave does the will of his master. To serve Christ is to renounce doing your own thing and living without contraint, to pray instead: “Thy will be done!” and to fight an ongoing, never ending war against your selfish desires. As our Epistle said: to dump “fornication, uncleaness, covetousness (which is idolatry), filthiness, foolish talking, coarse jesting” and to replace them with “giving of thanks” and offering up our lives in union with Christ’s offering of His life as a living sacrifice to God, to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us - THAT is the path to freedom. And to live that way is not really to live as a slave at all – it is to live as a beloved child of the heavenly Father, joyfully following God’s way.
Two paths, then. One landing you in bondage; the other leading you to freedom. One resulting in the permanent loss of the home you were made for – as St. Paul said: “Let no one deceive you with empty words; because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience.” The other leading directly to the home which God has prepared for you through His Son. Everyone of you is walking one path or the other, and none of us can pull off walking both at the same time; they face in opposite directions: toward heaven or toward hell. Which are you walking today?
Our Lord Christ knows how strong the grip of Satan can be in our lives. That’s why He described the devil in today’s Gospel as a strong man, who is armed, and guards his palace so that his goods are in peace. In other words, Satan is like an armed bandit, holed up inside of the human person who has given himself over his passions and let them rule him. And then the person is really helpless to do squat about it.
Possessed is a strong word, but it means that the devil’s in the driver’s seat and you’re just along for the ride. It’s when the realization hits you may have freely given up the driver’s seat, but you cannot freely take it over again. The one driving the car now is armed and means you no good; in fact, you are the loot he’s interested in stealing. He wants to own you, to possess you, to fill you with his own emptiness, bitterness and hatred.
Is there any hope then? If you find yourself in such a predicament? Yes! No hope in yourself, but great hope in Christ Jesus. That’s why He said: “But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth the spoils.” Jesus is that “stronger man.” And this is exactly what He has come to do – for the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil. He came hunting for Satan and his angels. He overpowered them. He stripped them of the armor they were trusting in. And that’s how he began looting the strong man’s house.
Do you know how he stripped him of his armor he was trusting in? He did that on the cross where He shed His own blood! You see, THE armor Satan trusted in was his right to accuse, to wave your sin in God’s face and demand that He hand you over to hell as one whose life was forfeit. But by going to the cross your Lord suffered that hell and death which were the due punishment of the world’s sin – and He suffered them innocently! His blood blots out your every sin in the eyes of His Father. That’s how he knocked the biggest part of Satan’s armor out of his hand. What does Satan have left for armor, then? Only the power of the lie, the power to deceive. And Christ exposes this too – shows the enemy up for the murder he is - and then our Lord proceeds to drive Satan out. To show him the door. And this he does in the waters of Holy Baptism. “Depart unclean spirit and make room for the Holy Spirit!”
And yet make no mistake about it: the Lord Jesus clearly teaches that just because Satan is ONCE driven away from a person, that does not mean he loses all interest in that person and can never touch them again. Quite the opposite! The demon once driven out is restless and homeless, and seeking a home, it tries to return to the person from whom it had been driven out in the first place. If it finds its old home with a “vacancy” sign hanging out front, the demon moves back in with a vengeance and throws a party for a bunch of his friends who end up moving in along with him. “And the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
He couldn’t say any clearer: beware of the “once saved, always saved” nonsense! Beware of saying: “I’m baptized!” and treating that like your ticket to heaven while you merrily walk the road that lands in perdition! Satan must not just be cast out; he must be kept out. But how?
Well, if the house of your life is constantly filled with Christ, then there’s no room for Satan to even get his foot in the door, is there? So let Christ fill your life! Let Him live within you! Come to Confession and receive His absolution to forgive you and strengthen you in the fight against your passions! Come in humbleness to His Table and let Him place into you the Body of the Stronger Man who tosses Satan out and the Blood that has blotted out the handwriting against you! Read His Word daily and there let Him find a home in you. Never cease to call upon His name! Let Him fill your life through and through.
For that is how the One who tossed Satan out in your Baptism will be keeping him out – and then you’ll enjoy freedom, the freedom you long for, the true and lasting freedom that comes only from our union with Jesus Christ! Amen.