The prophet Baruch was a contemporary and friend of the prophet Jeremiah and both spoke the Lord’s word of truth prior to the catastrophic events that enveloped Jerusalem in the year 587 BC.
Remember, it was in the year 587 BC that the armies of Babylon conquered the holy city and razed it to the ground. The temple was destroyed and the Israelites were driven into exile. Jeremiah foresaw this horror and warned the people that a moment of terrifying darkness was about to descend upon the Israelites. Both Jeremiah and Baruch would witness the catastrophe of 587 BC.
In today’s excerpt from the Book of the Prophet Baruch, he offers a theological explanation for the sufferings of the Israelites, insisting that the horrors they endured in 587 BC germinated from idolatry. Many of the Israelites had abandoned the one true God and supplanted him with false gods. False gods and false worship had brought about the catastrophe.
But, the prophet Baruch also insists, that the one true God, had not abandoned his people. The sufferings they experience can become an occasion of spiritual purification and renewal.
This scripture can illuminate for us some of the great dynamics of the Christian spiritual life. I am speaking about consolations and desolations, of attachment and detachment. There are experiences of consolation in the spiritual life, all good, but desolations will come, and the wisdom we receive from these experiences is as important, if not at times more so, that the positive feelings generated by consolations. Authentic Christian spirituality does not hold to the idea that only good and positive experiences and feelings are “blessings”. “Blessings” are those realities of human experience that invite us to grow in holiness and these invitation to grow in holiness can happen in experiences of both consolation and desolation.
Further, our attachments can subvert us, even good things can become idols and detachment from these things is an essential, purifying (and often painful) move that must be made. Our attachments elevate worldly concerns, causes, relationships, and things to the status of ultimacy in our lives. Good things are no longer routes of access to God, but instead inhibit our relationship with him. As a result of our attachments we become imprisoned by idolatry. Detachment is the only way to spiritual freedom.
Christ’s testimony that he witnessed the fall of Satan is meant to indicate the defeat of the devil and the supremacy of his power over the evil one. Christ is referring to the terrifying truth that with his failure to conquer heaven, Satan sought to conquer earth, and his dark strategy to do so had nearly worked. Satan had insinuated his corrupting influence into the worldly structures of politics, economics, even religion. His temptations had inclined our desires for wealth, pleasure, power and honors into forces of our own destruction.
Christ arrives in this world as the power of God, the same power of God that cast Satan like lightning from heaven. This power of Christ is invested in his disciples and they are to be a liberating force that drives out the devil’s influence from the world.
The Church can be properly understood as a resistance movement through which Christ acts to subvert the devil and his influence. Christ, who is the bearer of light and truth, will act through his disciples to dispel the darkness of sin and expose the deceptions of the evil one.
Satan’s fall “like lightning” revealed that the spiritual realm had been freed from his conniving influence, but now the world must also be freed from Satan’s power. Christ’s disciples will be instrumental in this mission. The victory of God in Christ over sin and death on the cross signals Satan’s ultimate defeat and reveals that the liberation of the world from the power of the devil has now begun.