‘How can Satan cast out Satan?’

Tenth Sunday of the Year B

In this Sunday’s reading we hear about the reaction to Jesus’ activity, from his family and from the religious authorities – and his response to it. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

Mark 3:20-35

20 Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. 21 When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.
22 The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying ‘Beelzebul is in him,’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ 23 So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables. ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. 25 And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. 26 Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. 27 But no-one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.
28 ‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; 29 but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ 30 This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’
31 His mother and brothers now arrived, and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. 32 A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ 33 He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 35 Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

Other readings: Genesis 3:9-15 Psalm 129 (130) 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1


In this rather complicated gospel passage we hear about the reaction to Jesus’ activity, from his family and from the religious authorities, represented by the scribes.

Members of his family are so concerned about Jesus that they consider taking him home by force to put an end to his ministry. But it is the scribes from Jerusalem who have worked out in their own way that Jesus is in league with the powers of evil, with Beelzebul, another name for Satan. Jesus takes this point up. His actions are constantly challenging the power of evil, so how can he be on the side of evil? He is in fact the one who is strong enough to challenge Satan. The scribes have closed their minds to this possibility; they are unwilling to let the Spirit teach them.

The final verses suggest that the relationships we make in the Christian family are of great significance.

Is the gospel of Jesus challenging to me?

Am I open enough to receive the message which Jesus brings?

Let us pray for those who struggle with the Christian gospel.

Let us pray for those who are stuck in their own dogmatism.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy