13 October, Friday – Covetousness

13 October 2017

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Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2

Priests, put on sackcloth and lament. Ministers of the altar, wail.

Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God. For the house of our God has been deprived of oblation and libation.

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; elders, call together all the inhabitants of the country to the house of the Lord your God.

Cry out to the Lord, ‘Oh, what a day! For the day of the Lord is near, it comes as a devastation from Shaddai.’

Sound the trumpet in Zion, give the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the country tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, yes, it is near.

Day of darkness and gloom, day of cloud and blackness. Like the dawn there spreads across the mountains a vast and mighty host, such as has never been before, such as will never be again to the remotest ages.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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…his goods are undisturbed
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that, “When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.” (Lk 11:21). In my early years in advertising, I used to covet many things. I had collections of caps, Swatch watches, CDs, magazines (GQ, Arena and the like), even Mambo t-shirts (which I hardly wore). I don’t know what possessed me to regularly hit the stores on payday and just pick up whatever caught my eye. Looking back, I just wonder how much I spent over the years storing up all these possessions.
As I progressed in my career, I began spending on more expensive items. Blinded by my ego and pride, I always wanted to be seen in the latest jeans, wearing a cool timepiece or luxury accessory. Then, reality hit when I was retrenched twice. I realized how much I had simply thrown to the retail gods over nearly 15 years. So when Jesus speaks about a strong man fully armed, who is attacked and overcome by a stronger being, I identify with the weaker man who has been attacked by the devil. In my case, the evil one certainly knew my weaknesses and exploited them to the fullest, through a potent mix of pride, greed and covetousness. I discovered that at the end of the day, no amount of material possessions can help if deep within one’s heart, there is nothing of value.
Today, my perspective on the same verse is slightly different. I still identify with the strong man but I am now building up my armor not through material goods, but through formation. The past 6 years have been a blessing as I journey closer to God and attempt to walk in the footsteps of his disciples. And while I cannot proclaim to be strong in terms of my spirituality and prayer life, I know that every day, the Lord is building me up and strengthening my armor through the people and situations He sends my way.
Brothers and sisters, we are children of God, created in His image. What we possess in our hearts is much more important than what we possess in our lives. For me, the love of God resides deep in my heart. That is something that I will always cherish and keep safe within me. So too the fruits of the Holy Spirit – charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, generosity, modesty, self-control, gentleness and chastity. In whatever degree we possess them, let us pray that each of us strives to protect these ‘possessions’ and keep them safe in our hearts.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you continue to work within us to build up our spiritual armor so that we can protect ourselves from temptation and sin.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You all that you bless us with and, most importantly, for your unconditional love for all of us.

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