Dear Friends in Christ Fourth Sunday of the Year 2018
Jesus’ healing ministry included delivering people from oppression and possession of evil spirits. In other words, Jesus bore witness both to the reality and personification of evil. He affirmed the reality of demons, demon possession and the devil. The devil has various names: the Evil One, Satan, Beelzebub and the Father of lies. It is impossible to read the New Testament without encountering this reality.
There is certainly at work and at play nowadays a tendency to pooh-pooh evil and certainly the idea of personified evil in the form of the devil – we like to feel we have grown out of this, deliverance from evil and the demonic realm is considered extreme or unscientific, and those suffering from such torment are directed towards medical intervention or psychiatry. The idea of being prayed over to be liberated from the clutches of demons or evil isn’t embraced or accepted today. This is despite the Scriptures bearing eloquent witness to the reality and power of evil over us, despite the testimony of the saints. St. John Vianney wrestled with ‘the Grappin’ (as he called the devil) so violently that his bed would shake. St Ignatius of Loyola taught that the gift of discernment within the movement of God’s Spirit and without the influence upon us of evil spirits.
Pope Francis himself has invited fierce criticism for his bold and unambiguous teaching about the reality of the devil and demons. In so doing, he is following in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI, who famously said that ‘the smoke of Satan’ had entered the temple of God and that one of the major needs of the Church was to ‘defend ourselves from that evil that we call the devil.’
Every time we pray the ‘Our Father’ we humbly ask that we be delivered from evil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reinforces this teaching: ‘In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposed God. The devil (dia-bolis) is the one who ‘”throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ’. (para 2851)