“He who does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23).
When people feel confused, they say their thoughts are scattered. The meaning of the word diabolical is to set apart, to disperse; it is the opposite of symbolic, to gather. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes aimed to restore order and sanity to a world challenged by the forces of chaos. Moriarity, Holmes’ nemesis, was a caricature of Nietzsche, the brilliant German philosopher whose critique of the culture and thought represented by the British Empire seemed to presage nihilism and threatened to open the door to chaos.
The theme of the struggle between order and chaos runs through human history, culture and religion. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ announcement of the coming kingdom of God disturbs the existing order and its underlying ideas of dominance, division, and conflict as defining human affairs. Evil spirits under the prince of demons, Beelzebub (literally, “lord of the flies”), ruled the world with fear and threat of death. When Jesus casts out evil spirits, his detractors accuse him of being in cahoots with the devil. He replies that the scattering of the demons is proof that a greater power is at work, “the finger of God”. A new world order of love, healing and reconciliation has overcome evil.
The cost of this restoration is Jesus’ willingness to die for love, thus overcoming death by embracing it and taking it with him to the grave. But in the moment of ultimate disintegration, God overthrows the power of sin and death with the greatest power of love and life. Where death would scatter the human race in diabolical triumph, Jesus ascends the cross and draws all things to himself. With the resurrection, a new creation is revealed. God’s original plan is restored.
Each day we have the opportunity to choose either to gather with Christ, the symbol and rallying center of God’s plan of love for the universe, or for it to disintegrate, be dispersed. The most radical thing we can do is to say, “Today, Lord, I gather with you; today I choose love.