In our Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday from Matthew 12, we read about demons: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”
My first reflection upon reading this passage is gratitude for being able to preach this past Sunday on John 3:16: “For God so loved the world….” While I don’t know much about demons, I do know something about God’s love, having been a recipient for the past many decades.
But I also note that for our Wednesday Healing Eucharist this week, we are reading about Saint Joan of Arc (1412-1431). In her biographical sketch taken from the book Lesser Feasts and Fasts, we learn of Joan of Arc’s visions!
As a teenager in France, “She believed that Saint Michael and Saint Catherine, among other saints, called her to save France from the civil war between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy. At first, her visions were looked upon skeptically, but she eventually convinced King Charles VII, the not yet consecrated King of France, of the genuineness of her visions.”
However, later in her brief life, while still a teenager, “she was tried and condemned as a relapsed heretic and burnt to death at Rouen.” Her visions, in other words, were thought to be demonic.
When conversation turns to talk of demons and visions and the like, I repair to one of my favorite verses of scripture: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)
Being an old man myself, and once upon a time a young man, I rely on this verse for some inspiration. As a grade schooler I remember often sitting on my Grandfather’s lap and reading the Bible with him. He relied on Halley’s Bible Handbook for a lot of his insights into scripture. And as a teenager I read the entire Bible, cover to cover, one summer. I still have that Bible, by the way, with my underlines and marginal notes, except now I read it “blank to cover,” since the front cover dropped off some time ago.
I can’t say that I had visions as a result, but I did imagine myself as a warrior for God, ala Joan of Arc, who wore a suit of white armor in her expedition to save France. And now as an older man, I do “dream” and have “visions” regarding my stewardship of time and effort on behalf of the residents I serve in our sober living homes, and the parishioners I serve as a Deacon.
When I stop having dreams and visions I hope I have the grace to retire from my present responsibilities.
I recently spent an evening at Dodger Stadium with about 80 of my Jubilee residents and alumni and friends. I didn’t pay much attention to the game. But I did imagine a better life and a better world for my friends that night. How can I contribute, ala Joan of Arc, to life and world that have not always been kind and uplifting to the spirits of people in recovery from addiction? How can I do battle with the demons that confront us?
Granted, we have not often deserved the world’s kindness. We have been our own worst enemies at times. But still, in the glow of the Pentecost experience of a couple weeks ago, how can we have that spirit within us that comforts and challenges us, that is our advocate and our inspiration?
These are the questions that are the stuff of my dreams and visions!
God at Pentecost pours out his Spirit upon us that we might be empowered to discover and implement our worthy aspirations. What is our vision for our Church and our world? May God grant to this Parish this gift of the Holy Spirit always.