So, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you." For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"; — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
I will thank the Lord
with all my heart
in the meeting of the just and their assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
to be pondered by all who love them. (R./)
Majestic and glorious his work,
his justice stands firm for ever.
He makes us remember his wonders.
The Lord is compassion and love. (R./)
He gives food to those who fear him;
keeps his covenant ever in mind.
He has shown his might to his people
by giving them the lands of the nations. (R./)
As Jesus was casting out a demon, some of the bystanders 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 armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first."
A favourite way to answer a question, for Jesus as for the rabbis, is by posing another question, in this case, "by whom do your own exorcists cast out devils?" While our culture demands instant answers, the Bible tries to induce a meditative attitude in God's presence. Jesus acknowledges the existence of supernatural forces of good and evil, devils and angels. He wrestles with these mighty powers and must silence his opponents who accuse him out of envy and fear, "by Beelzebul, he casts out devils!" No indeed, he replies, but it is with God's help that he faces down the power of evil. So we too cannot rely simply on our own unaided strength, but make God our refuge in the day of evil.
Paul looks at the divine agency in an even deeper way, as he writes about the initiative of God and of his Christ in offering us eternal life. For him, the fundamental truth is that "justification" and a sharing in the divine life is a benevolent gift on God's part, something freely offered, not something earned by us through years of obedience to a set of laws. It is mainly in Galatians and Romans that he lays out his theology of justification by faith: our proper response to God's loving gift is one of trust and gratitude, followed, of course, by allowing ourselves be guided from then on by the example of God's Son and by the generous impulses of the Holy Spirit. In this way, the finger of God should be always operative in our daily choices.
Some people put Jesus to the test by asking for a sign from heaven. They want him to perform some spectacular miracle, to prove his credentials, but are completely blind to the presence of God in the ministry of Jesus itself. Jesus declares that it is by the finger of God that he drives demons out of people. God is powerfully at work in his ministry if only people had eyes to see it. There is no need for Jesus to do a spectacular sign.
Sometimes we too can be overly fascinated by the unusual when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. We fail to see the ways that the Lord is present among us in and through the goodness and kindness and hospitality of others, in and through the selfless service that people show each other in all kinds of ordinary and simple ways, in and through the various expressions of love that people show one another, in and through people's quiet prayerfulness. We can miss the deeper dimension of the everyday and the familiar. I think of the poet Joseph Mary Plunkett who wrote, "I see his blood upon the rose and in the stars the glory of his eyes." Nature spoke to him of Christ. The best of human nature and human relationships can speak to us even more powerfully of the Lord.