Luke 11:14-23 (NRSVCE)
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.” We’ve been hearing throughout the readings so far this Lent about the importance of communion, about the importance of brotherly love amongst one another. We are meant to be one Body of Christ, united under the headship of Jesus. The true evil, then, is division. This is Satan’s biggest desire. Sow division among the people of God. Sever the bonds between them, and the members of the Body will turn against it. He wants to divide the Kingdom of God, to separate the Body so as to separate man from God. This is what Jesus warns us about when he says “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” We are to gather like the flock to their shepherd, and if we do not cling to our shepherd we become scattered, which makes us easy targets for the wolves.
Just look at how quick the crowds were to accuse Jesus of working with demons. Their first instinct, after seeing this great miracle, was to separate the shepherd from the flock. This speaks volumes to the level of influence sin has on our lives. We recoil from what is holy, we demonize (pun intended) that which is good, so that we can continue to live our lives as we always have: in sin. We are scattered, and the wolves have taken hold of us. But Christ comes to drive away the wolves, to reunite His flock under His care. As he says to Simon Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) The shepherd unites His flock, and protects it. So long as the flock gathers to him, and is not scattered, it will not be harmed.
This is really the point of the penitential season of Lent. It is good for us to do penance in our own lives, and to focus on our own sin. But we are not merely individuals, we are members of the flock. Lent is a time when the entire people join together in penance, when we focus our efforts, together, on gathering with Christ. More broadly, this is why we have liturgy in general! We worship together, with one voice, we repent together, we do penance together, because we are all one Body. We are individuals as well, and we all have our own sins, our own struggles, and our own personal relationship with Christ, but the individual cannot exist in this relationship except as part of the Body. “Whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Without being united to the Body, you cannot be united to the Head. Without being in the flock, you cannot gather with the shepherd. You will become scattered.
So this Lent is a time for us to focus on strengthening those bonds between each other. For it is only the flock that can truly follow the shepherd.