”I am quite sure I am more afraid of people who are themselves terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself.” ~ Saint Teresa of Avila
In yesterday’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28), we revisited the story wherein Jesus drives out an unclean spirit that had taken residence inside of a man whom he encountered in a Capernaum synagogue. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!” Yes, even the demons know when they are in the presence of the King of Kings https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Even-the-Demons-Know. The swiftness with which Jesus expels the demon is crystal-clear proof that God and Satan are not equals. At all times, God and his beloved son Jesus are in control.
In today’s 1st Reading (Hebrews 2:14-18), we‘re reminded that Jesus’ dominance over Satan extends far beyond the purview of our mere day-to-day activity or even the entirety of our Earthly journey. “Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them,” Paul explains in an effort to plumb the depths of Jesus’ love for us, his willingness to humble himself so as to share in our humanity (Philippians 2:8). He goes on to explain “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death have been subject to slavery all their life.” As touched upon briefly in the closing words of yesterday reflection, because of Jesus’ heroic sacrifice and subsequent resurrection, death has no power over a baptized child of God https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/On-Life-and-Living-in-the-Last-Days.
Our hope is rooted in this divine reality. Whereas it appeared that this hope was crushed as the life seeped out of the battered and tortured body of Jesus on the cross, this was not the case. Satan, the great deceiver, had been deceived. Annihilated and sent back to the depths of hell where he belongs. Yet everywhere we turn, Satan’s presence is palpable. Of the treacherous Prince of Darkness, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem once said “The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.” Yes, it would seem as though Satan, diabolically ubiquitous since the fall of Adam and Eve, still manages to grab his share of the headlines. Why does Lucifer live rent-free in the heads of so many?
We should first start with those imperiled individuals who believe that the devil does not exist, this despite the fact that Jesus Himself spoke of him frequently throughout Scripture (Matthew 4:10, John 8:44, Mark 5:7-8, Luke 10:17-19, Matthew 4:7, and Matthew 25:41). “La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas,” to quote the 19th Century French poet Charles Baudelaire, in his native tongue no less. “The devil’s finest trick,” explained Baudelaire, “is to persuade you that he does not exist.” After all, one cannot win a battle which he or she does not even know they are fighting. “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” said the Rock upon which our Lord chose to build his church (1 Peter 5:8). Sage words for us all.
Still others seek to engage him regularly, at times going so far as to “trash talk” him as the young people in our midst might say. This dangerous tactic is the equivalent of showing up to a knife fight brandishing a spoon. No mere mortal can match Satan in matters pertaining to treachery, guile, and duplicity. We must never engage Satan in dialogue. Ever.
Then there are those who are quite literally obsessed with him. Of that crowd, Helen Keller once said “It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. But if they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.” Sadly enough there are far too many who have ceased to believe in God or goodness altogether yet they still believe in the devil. Why is it that evil is so possible whereas goodness is so eternally difficult?
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. We know too that Satan was behind Jobs’ suffering. Are we in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness? Without question. Perhaps the devil’s greatest weapon is what Senior Pastor and blogger Mark Altrogge calls his “fiery darts,” the unending lies about God that Satan launches at us with regard to our faith. He is powerful make no mistake, but he is not all-powerful. As Paul alludes to in today’s 1st Reading, he is the god of this world. Unbelievers are most definitely under his power; they don’t realize it. They remain enslaved to him, to once again borrow Paul’s analogy in today’s passage.
Through the gift of moral agency, or free will, a gift given to us by our Heavenly Father, we have the ability to choose good or evil. God will not force us to do good just as sure as the devil cannot force us to perpetrate evil. If you resist evil and choose good, you will be strengthened and blessed. So in matters pertaining to the evil one, he would desire nothing more than drag you to hell with him, remember the words of Saint John Paul II, who said “The only power the Devil has is the power we give him.”
For more on these Readings, please revisit my Hub from last year wherein I delve deeper into this idea of Jesus “teaching with authority:”