Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28):
‘Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.’
It’s not difficult to imagine evil in our world. It’s all around us; wars, murder, violence, destruction. Evil has enveloped our world and it can be experienced at almost every turn. Yet,while it is easy to see evil and to experience it, do we really appreciate who is behind it?
While a willing human mind is perhaps necessary to carry out evil, it is the devil that is the source of evil; and he uses his power to force others to carry out his evil deeds in many different ways. In today’s Gospel passage he uses possession as a means to wreak havoc and to attack God. In today’s world possession by unclean spirits is still a reality and exorcisms occur throughout the world. But the devil makes his presence felt in numerous other ways. He destroys our love of life from the moment of conception until natural death by willing abortions and assisted suicide. He chips away at the family by breaking it up and removing those critical elements of fatherhood and motherhood for every child. He encourages gossip, cynicism, complaining and negativity among people.
The devil also comes to us in the most simple and innocent situations. He encourages our laziness as we prepare for Mass on a Sunday; making us feel like the weekly trip to church is a chore rather than a joy. He visits us in the evening just before we go to sleep and gently invites us to read another few pages of the latest thriller at the expense of our prayers. He is not always forceful. Indeed, his ways are often subtle and gentle; wooing us with a seeming beauty and elegance designed to capture our hearts and designed to thrill and excite.
The devil’s intention is ultimately to come between us and God. He is a fallen angel because he wanted to be God. And given he cannot possibly be God he now wants to bring as much destruction to God’s creation as he possibly can and the best way to do this is to turn God’s own children against Him.
However, he will never win as Christ has won the victory on the Cross. Good has triumphed over evil and God can never be defeated. But our hearts can still be won over by the devil and he is doing his very best to ensure that this happens to as many people as possible. As we prepare for our Lenten journey this year perhaps it would beuseful to try to discern the ways the devil tries to get at us. If we can identify his evil habits then we can turn to Jesus and ask him to defend us so that our hearts are never won over by the devil and his destructive ways. We belong to God and to God alone. It is He who has given us life and it is to Him that we shall return at the end of time to be judged. Make sure that judgement has a happy ending. Don’t let the devil have his way. He wants you to fail so that you will be damned for all eternity. Remember, you have Jesus on your side! He is the only one who can save you from the devil’s evil clutches.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and ignore the subtle temptations of the evil one. Keep your heart fixed on Jesus and make sure that your destiny is Heaven, to be reunited with your Father who loves you more than you can ever imagine.