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Notes for Lent 3 – Oculi

by pastorjuhl ~ February 19th, 2008

This Sunday’s liturgy has a simple and easily recognizable structure.  Christ makes us men of light, He overcomes the devil in us through Baptism and the Eucharist.  The Mass is more directly applicable to the catechumens, but the faithful too are included in all the texts. (Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace”, Vol. 2:176-177)

Dante, in his tremendous picture of hell, assigns certain souls not to hell itself but to its vestibule.  They are the souls who never chose God nor the devil, good or bad, who simply let things float along and never came to a decision.  They go round and round, following a moving flag, now here and now there, but never in any one place.  According to Dante, they reel forever in a whirl of sandy dust, bitten by wasps and hornets.  They are not allowed to enter the light of heaven nor permitted to descend into hell.  Heaven won’t have them, for they never chose heavenly things.  Hell will not receive them…because if they came into hell, the damned would have the happiness of looking down on something lower than themselves. (Lindemann, “The Sermon and the Propers”, Volume 2:73)

Chrysostom and Cyril
Jesus describes the devil as a strong man, not because he is such by nature, but referring to his ancient tyranny which our own weakness brought about.  Before the coming of the Savior he enjoyed great power; seizing another’s flock, that of the Most High God, and driving it as it were into his own fold.

A hardened heart will not be instructed, no matter how plainly and clearly the truth is presented; but the faith of the righteous is strengthened when they see that the ground of their faith is right and good (Kirchenpostille)

The world is not worthy of seeing the smallest spark of God’s wondrous signs and works, but deserves to be blind, senseless, and deaf; for it dishonors, reviles, and slanders the Lord Christ as we see here.  We Christian, however, who have and believe the Word should see, know, and be comforted in our hearts that God has vested us with the power here upon earth to continue to drive out the devil also now – indeed it is our duty! – both spiritually and physically. (Hauspostille)

The first group praises (the casting out of the demon), is pleased with it, and stands in wonderment over it.  The second group is openly hostile, mocks, and ridicules it.  The third set of people want very much that God would do, not what He wills, but what they want.  That’s the story of how the gospel has been received time and again in the world.  Some hear it and love it; others persecute it openly; still others trample over it with their feet inwardly.  God grant that we are not swayed thereby, whether they believe, mock, or trample it underfoot.  When we preachers proclaim the saving gospel, we know that souls are safe.  Whoever does not wish to follow, let him find out for himself who it is that he has despised, mocked, and reviled. (Hauspostille)

Johann Gerhard
The Lord Christ…compares the devil to a powerfully armed man who guarded his palace to be very restful.  No one could conquer him, destroy his palace, or rob  him, unless it happened that the Lord Christ Himself, as a stronger One, were to conquer him.

Christ wants to remind us that we are not just to view this poor man in particular for who he is.  Rather, we are to view him as an image of the entire human race.  We should view his misery as a reflection of the power and night which the devil has achieved over the entire human race through sin.

Just as Christ here by the Spirit and the Finger of God expels the devil, so also He still today imparts His victory against the devil and transfers us out of the kingdom of the devil into God’s kingdom of grace through the Spirit and the Finger of God; that is to say, through the Word and holy Sacraments.  For the Word and the holy Sacraments are nothing else but the Finger of God which He lays into our ears and upon our eyes.  The power of the Holy Spirit is in these means.  Through them He works in us faith and rebirth, along with renewal, so that we are redeemed from the kingdom and the power of the devil.

Christ wants to say that it does no good for you to want to attain bodily security as you hear through Me that you have been rescued from the kingdom of the devil.  Rather, it is necessary that you pay close attention to your entrenchment so that the devil does not once again get his claws on you.

As reborn persons, we are nothing more than raised up targets against which the devil aims his fiery darts.  Here we must seize Christ as the shield of faith and guard ourselves against cocky self-confidence and against every sin so that we do not unlock both gate and door for the devil.  Instead, we should much rather be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

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