“We may not pay Satan reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents.” ~ Mark Twain
On Sunday Evenings, my mother, my sister, my twelve year old niece and I typically have dinner together. When the weather is nice, I like to fire up the grill and make their favorite meals for them. We all have similar tastes which makes it easy, but everyone of course has their favorites. My niece for instance likes filet mignon. Marry rich young Catherine, that is my admittedly sarcastic advice to her. My mother prefers hot dogs and hamburgers. My sister always asks me to grill copious amounts of peppers, mushrooms, eggplant and other vegetables with whatever we have so that she can stick to a healthy eating regimen throughout the week.
My favorite meal you ask?
Bone-in pork chops, about an inch thick, grilled to a pink hue that flirts ever so subtly with trichinosis and slathered in Sweet Baby Ray’s hickory brown sugar barbecue sauce.
I mention this because it is always with a tinge of sadness that I read today’s Gospel (Mark 5:1-20), wherein Jesus drives the enormous litany of unclean spirits that possessed our protagonist ~ his name we’re told is, appropriately enough, “Legion” into a nearby swine herd, said to have been upwards of 2,000 in number. The herd promptly and recklessly storms down a steep bank into the sea, where they are subsequently drowned.
That’s a lotta bone-in pork chops going to waste right there.
What next? Will the Apostles proceed to engage in a Massive key lime pie fight?” If so, could they save me a slice? Two if there’s a graham cracker crust involved?
In other words, my thoughts, which thank heavens do not coincide with God’s thoughts, mirror those of the astonished onlookers in today’s Gospel. In the aftermath of this bizarre episode, we are told that they pleaded with Jesus to leave the region, perhaps out to fear, maybe due to a lack of faith, or maybe even out of anger due to the fact that this swine herd accounted for a significant portion of this small village of Gerasene’s economy.
But as we’ve seen in the past, perhaps most notably in Matthew 18:12 where Jesus leaves the 99 sheep to find the 1 that went astray, ratios, economies of scale and percentages mean nothing to the Savior of the world if the soul of even one of his children is in jeopardy.
In what was a truly ironic twist, the Geraseneans saw the power of Satan and tried to push Jesus aside, whereas the man possessed by Satan saw the power of God and wanted to follow Jesus. Go figure.
Our battle with Satan is a tricky one. As C.S. Lewis once pointed out “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and Hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
In 1 Peter 5:8, the Rock upon which our Church was built warns us to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Saint Alphonsus Liguori once said “The devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labours to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession.”
Make no mistake, Satan is good at what he does. And he fights dirty. Take this quote from Saint John Bosco for instance:
“Another weapon the devil employs is immodesty, or more frankly, impurity. My dear children, be on your guard. The devil will tempt you with bad books, bad thoughts, or the foul conversation of a companion. When any such fellow approaches you, say to yourself, this is a minister of Satan. And let these wretches who indulge in foul conversation say to himself, I am a minister of Satan because I help him ruin souls!”
But we must always remember, his powers are dwarfed by those of Jesus, and we have the power to make him powerless over us. Saint Anthony of Egypt, one of the great albeit lesser known saints of the Church, reminds us of some of the very simple but powerful weapons we have at our disposal:
“The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross.” These are tactics that we can easily add to our daily arsenal against Satan and his minions.
Perhaps most importantly, as elementary as it may seem, recognize the fact that you are indeed in a battle with Satan and be vigilant. Failure to even acknowledge the fact that you are in battle will most certainly guarantee that you will be a failure in battle.
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” ~ Amen.
Julie Green on February 01, 2021:
I really enjoyed reading this and especially the quotes of the saints tied in with the theme. It is edifying!