Friday, October 07, 2016

Deliver Us from Evil

By Colleen O'Sullivan

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  (Luke 11:23)

Lord, fill our hearts with your presence.  Deliver us from evil, we pray.

Our Gospel reading today is about the very real presence of evil in our world.  We only have to look online or read a newspaper or watch on the streets of our workplaces or homes to see that evil is a very real presence.  Yesterday, a few doors up from my office in Old Town, an elderly man was shot and killed.  Millions of refugees around the globe seek to find a home; theirs having been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by war or terror.   Our political process has degenerated to the point where no one really listens to or hears what anyone else is saying, and much of what is said is filled with negativism and invective. 

Jesus doesn’t just talk about evil; he’s busy fighting it.  Jesus must surely have felt exasperated at times.  In today’s Gospel reading, the Pharisees again show themselves as people who are “watching” him but without any real sight or insight, as people whose minds are closed.  They just want to get rid of Jesus.

In the verse before today’s reading, the Lord has driven a demon from a man who couldn’t speak.  The crowd accuses him of doing so by the power of Satan, which makes no sense.  Why would Satan want to drive out his own cohort?   Jesus goes on to say that he casts out evil by the finger of God, and that means that the reign of God is right there in the crowd’s midst, if only they would open their eyes to the truth.

Once evil has been cleaned out, Jesus says we’d better fill ourselves with the things of God, lest the emptiness be filled with an even greater evil.  Satan wants nothing more than to come between us and God.  He wages a constant battle to gain control of our souls.  Jesus knows that if we’re not 100% with him, Satan will wiggle his way in through the tiniest crack in our relationship.  The days we don’t pray because we’re too tired or we’re too busy doing other things, the Sundays we take a “vacation” from worship, the times we don’t defend our faith when we’re hanging out with people who ridicule believers, the missed opportunities to help the poor, the sick, or those vulnerable in any way – these are Satan’s delight.  They are his way into our hearts.

Maybe you don’t think in terms of the “devil” or the “evil one,” but something or someone keeps pulling me away from being the person in Christ I long to be.  I can readily identify with the apostle Paul’s words: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19) What can I do about it?

In an October 2014 homily on this Gospel reading, Pope Francis gives us a suggestion:

“We know – Jesus says clearly – that the devil always returns. Even at the end of life, He, Jesus, gives us an example of this. And to guard, to watch, so that the demons don’t enter in, we must be able to gather ourselves, that is, to stand in silence before ourselves and before God, and at the end of the day ask ourselves: ‘What happened today in my heart? Did anyone I don’t know enter? Is the key in its place?’ And this will help us to defend ourselves from so much wickedness, even from that which we could do if these demons, who are very clever and at the end would cheat all of us, even if they enter.”

Try praying the Daily Examen that Pope Francis suggests.  When you’ve done it for a while, you begin to see the areas where you are particularly vulnerable to being pulled away from the Lord.  You come to know better where to pray for the Lord’s protection from evil.

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