2nd Sunday of Lent Year B

Gen 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13,15-18 / PS 116: 10, 15, 16-17, 18-19 /  Rm 8:31b-34 / Mk9:2-10

     In the summer of 2013, Archbishop Carlson sent myself and two of my classmates to the picturesque city of Villa de Leyva in the beautiful country of Colombia. The city, at the high elevation of 7,000 feet, is surrounded by mountains which peak out another 5,000 feet above us at 12,000 ft. Coming from St. Louis it took me a couple of days to adjust to the 6,500 ft altitude difference, but once I did it was easy to climb the first 500 feet up a mountain to a statue of the Sacred Heart that overlooked the city. As we grew in confidence with the trek to the statue of the Sacred Heart we resolved to climb the whole mountain. While we had no problem with the initial 500 foot trek, as we climbed higher it became much more difficult to breath and we found ourselves stopping frequently to catch our breath. In the midst of the trek I felt like I was getting nowhere but when we stopped and looked out from the mountain I saw not only how much further we still had to go but I could also look down and see how far we had come. In life it can be easy for us to put one foot in front of the other day in and day out and continue to ascend the mountain without stopping to look at where we have come from and where we are going, yet if we constantly keep our head to the ground and simply pound the path it becomes very easy for us to get lost. Today we are invited to pause and look back at where we come from and look forward to where we are going.

     Today we hear Jesus took Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain where He showed them where they have come from and where they are going. In the presence of Moses and Elijah they see God’s plan which began with Abraham, continued with Moses, the lawgiver, passed through Elijah, the prophet, and was brought to fulfillment in Christ. As the apostles stood there in awe with their forefathers they were given an understanding of Jesus divinity and the hope of the resurrection. In today’s Gospel Jesus shows us that our earthly pilgrimage leads to our own resurrection into eternal life. Just as Isaac and Jesus before us had to carry the wood intended to be the means of their death up the hill, so too do we need to carry our own pains and sorrows up the hill so that we can lay them at the foot of the cross. Just as God provided a substitute for Abraham, so he would not have to sacrifice his son, so too He provides us with a substitute, His only Son who died on the cross for us and now sits at the right hand of the Father where He continues to intercede for us.

     During this season of Lent we are invited to stop on our journey up the spiritual mountain and look back to see how God has been at work throughout history and in our own personal lives, and then to look forward up the mountain towards eternal life. As we look back we should see God’s providential hand at work throughout history culminating in the sacrifice of His only Son on Good Friday. Even though Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, He did not leave us orphans. No our Lord who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father left us His Church whose central action is this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which makes present in all times and in all spaces the sacrifice offered on Calvary. Yes, you and I come to Holy Mass to offer praise and worship to God, but as we come we too stand at the foot of the cross. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. ‘The victim is one and the same: … only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner … this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”[1] Our Lord was sacrificed once and for all on Good Friday, but at every Mass that same saving sacrifice is made present for each and everyone of us and we are invited to participate in that sacrifice so that we too may too be glorified for all eternity in heaven. In just a few moments the gifts of bread and wine will be brought forward, symbolizing our offering for the sacrifice. Why not take a moment to make that offering your own by prayerfully offer to God all of your joys, sorrows, worries or anxieties and ask Him to transfigure them at the foot of the cross.

     Last Sunday we heard St. Mark recount the temptation of Jesus in the desert, showing us that Jesus is truly human and today in his account of the transfiguration He teaches us that Jesus is truly God. In these two short biblical passages the past, present and future are summarized in Christ, who is both fully God and fully man and His mission is made clear; He was sent by the Father into this world to suffer, die and rise so that we too, following after Him, may also die to ourselves and rise with Him. Friends Christ’s coming into the world to be scarified for us should give us hope to endure even our darkest trials for “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

     Our own journey up the mountain is a journey with Christ to the cross and ultimately to the resurrection. As we continue this season of Lent let us pause and recall how God has been working through the prophets, in His son Jesus and in our own lives and take courage and strength so that we can continue climbing in confidence with His assistance towards eternal life. As we gather around this altar, at the foot of the cross, with all of the saints who have gone before us let us ask them to pray for us that we might follow our Lord’s example and at the end of our earthly pilgrimage our lives may be transfigured by the light of His presence.

[1] CCC 1367

On Divorce: An Introduction

So what does the Church really teach on divorce?

     Sadly an estimated 28% of Catholic marriages end in divorce and just over 15% of Catholic marriages end with a petition for an annulment.[1] Unfortunately in the past year, as the Synod on the Family is Rome discussed divorce, their was much confusion about what the Church teaches with regards to divorce. This short response seeks to clarify the Church’s teaching on divorce.

     Any discussion on divorce must first properly begin with a discussion of what the Church believes about marriage. Following the teaching of Jesus that “what God has joined together, not human being must separate,”[2] the Catholic Church clearly teaches “the Lord Jesus intended on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissolvable … Between the baptized a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”[3] In short, the Church, following the teaching of Jesus which was confirmed by St. Paul[4] teaches that anyone who was properly married cannot break the promise of faithfulness till death do they part.

     The Church, in Her wisdom, does recognize there are certain circumstances where spouses can live separately while maintaining the marriage promises and “if civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the case of the children or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.”[5] Anytime there is marital conflict the Church is interested in the spiritual, physical, and psychological well being of the spouses and children. While under perfect circumstances the husband and wife have a moral obligation to maintain a common life, if the well being of the spouses or children is at risk it is permissible for the spouses to separate.[6] Certain conditions like spousal abuse, a spouse who doesn’t act responsibly due to and addiction, mental illness, or personality disorder could be just cause, as could one of the spouses living a criminal lifestyle, a spouse committing adultery, or even if one of the spouses is not willing to promote a religious atmosphere in the house. While these may seem like cut and dry cases, separation is serious and anyone contemplating separating from their spouse should seek the counsel of their parish priest.

     While divorce is serious the Church has genuine care and concern for divorced Catholics. Those who are validly married, but divorced should not shy away from the Church. As long as one is remaining faithful to their marriage vows (they have not remarried and are not illicitly pursuing another exclusive relationship) they should frequently approach the sacrament of Penance and frequently present themselves for Holy Communion.

     If a divorced Catholic wishes to remarry he should consult with his parish priest and seek an annulment. Contrary to popular opinion an annulment is not a Catholic divorce, but rather a declaration from the Church that a marriage, which was thought to be valid, actually did not meet the requirements of one of the essential elements of marriage. The Church does not simply grant a divorce, but rather after due investigation comes to the conclusion that one of the five elements of a Catholic marriage, namely 1. the spouses were free to marry. 2. They freely exchanged consent. 3. They intended to remain married and faithful to each other for life and were open to the possibility of children. 4. They intended the good of each other. 5. Their consent was given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister.[7] There are all kinds of reasons that a marriage, which while still remaining a civil marriage may have appeared to be a valid Catholic marriage but in actually was not. Anyone seeking an annulment should contact his parish priest.

     The Church has genuine car and concern for men and women who are struggling with their marriage and seeks to bring healing and forgiveness into the darkness. She extends to all people the pastoral care of her priests and fellow parishioners available at any parish and prays that those struggling with their marriage will find clarity and mercy from the Church through the ministry of Her parishes.

[1] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) Nineteen Sixty-four Research Blog. http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.ca/2013/09/divorce-still-less-likely-among.html

[2] Mt 19:6

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 2382.

[4] 1 Cor 7:10-11 and Eph 5:31-32

[5] CCC 2383

[6] CCC 2385

[7] For Your Marriage: An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Annulments. http://www.foryourmarriage.org/catholic-marriage/church-teachings/annulments/

1st Sunday of Lent Year B

Gen 9: 8-15 / PS 25: 2-5, 6-7, 8-9 / 1 Pt 3:18-22 / Mk 1:12-15

     In the bible the dessert is a place of encounter with God. It was in the desert that God first revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, where God formed His people the Israelites into a nation as He lead them from Egypt through the desert to the Promised Land, it was in the desert where God first revealed the identity of Jesus as the Son of God when He was baptized by John the Baptist and many early Christians, living as monks, went into the desert to seek an encounter with God. Throughout the Bible people go into the desert for a while, have an encounter with God and then return to life in closer union with God. The desert really is the precursor to the Catholic season of Lent.

     For people of biblical times the desert was a place of special closeness to God. When they journeyed into a desert they were surrounded only by the vast dry sand around them and the sky above. They had no secure place to seek refuge, no place where they could retreat and hide from earthly dangers. In the desert man is exposed to emptiness and the unknown which provides him with the perfect opportunity to turn to God who “holds the whole world in his hands and who can be everywhere present with men and knows them and is able to help them with his creative power, no matter where they are.”[1] The desert teaches us the first lesson of conversion, namely that we must recognize that we are mere creatures and are utterly dependent on God. “No one is strong enough to travel the entire path of salvation unaided. All have sinned, all need the Lord’s mercy, the love of the crucified one.”[2]

     In today’s gospel Jesus goes out into the dessert, a practice that He would repeat time and time again. Throughout His lifetime Jesus went into the dessert to be with His heavenly Father and then returned to minister to His people. Yet as we hear in today’s Gospel when Jesus goes to the dessert He is left vulnerable. We can easily ask why was Jesus, who is God, tempted by the devil. The answer is simple, because while He is fully God, He is also fully man and thus vulnerable to temptation. In allowing Himself to be tempted He reaches out to us and shows us the path through temptation to eternal life. It was through His temptations that He shows us a basic foundation of the spiritual life, namely if we walk with Him, if we trust Him, we can overcome any temptation.

     In this season of Lent our Lord invites us to follow after Him into the desert, that sacred place which is the university where God teaches His people. While most of us will not find ourselves going out into the hot desert for 40 days, the Church invites us to enter into the spiritual desert by fasting, performing penances and giving to the needy. Through faithfully undertaking our Lenten practices we too in some sense go out into the desert where we can encounter God and He will teach us the way to true earthly fulfillment and the path to eternal life.

     The Holy Spirit dwells inside of you and I who are body, soul composites. What we do to our bodies has an effect on our soul and our relationship with the Trinity. The acts of fasting, penance and almsgiving should exercise our heart to recognize what is absolutely essential and they should teach us how to share with others.

     This life we live is a battle where we are challenged to prefer heaven over earth and to prefer eternal values to the passing values of this world. No solider goes into battle unprepared. He spends months preparing for the battle through intense training. Now is our time to train. Through works of fasting, penances and charity we strengthen ourselves to fight the battles of own temptation. While we all face our own personal battles with the devil our Lord has made these temptations the means of our salvation for they “give you a chance to show God your fidelity.”[3] Fortunately our Lord does not leave us alone in this personal battle with the devil. He gives us the sacraments to fortify us and the lives of the saints who have gone before us as the battle plan, but we must engage those tools to help us overcome our own personal temptations. Why not make a resolution to attend the sacrament of confession this lent or perhaps find time to attend Holy Mass during the week, or even read a good spiritual book to help guide you through the season of Lent?

     As we enter into these 40 days of lent we must too go out into the desert to be taught at the university of the Lord, through our prayer, fasting and works of charity. As we begin this Lenten pilgrimage why don’t we create the desert environment in our lives by slowing down, making time for silence, allowing God to speak to us. Let’s make a concrete plan, perhaps to attend Mass sometime during the week, or to spend some time daily reading the Bible, maybe reducing distractions by eliminating TV or social media. Certainly these resolutions will not be easy, but whatever your resolutions are, undertake them out of love for God knowing that He will use those acts to transform your relationship with Him because “Jesus always has victory when He has your abandonment. He needs nothing more than that to bring about the Divine wonders that His Heart has prepared for you from all eternity.”[4]

     To truly be a Catholic requires us to live the life of Christ. During this holy season of lent the Church invites us to live with Jesus in the desert. She invites us through our acts of fasting, penance, and charity to undergo trials with Him and at the end of these days to come out of the desert ready to share the joy of the Easter season with Him, but the choice is ours, we can freely go to our Lord’s university in the desert, be challenged and come out stronger or we can choose to simply let this season of lent pass by. Perhaps the biggest temptation of this lent will be to remain where we are because we are comfortable, but Our Lord makes His will clear in today’s Gospel, when He tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel. His will is clear, but the choice is ours, will we go into the desert to encounter Him or will we just lent pass by?

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. pg 285

[2] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. pg 151 – 152

[3] St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). pg. 279

[4] Fr. Jean D’Elbee. I Believe in Love. Manchester: Sophia Institute Press. (2001.) pg. 89

Why celibacy for me.

     At the 10:45 Mass on Sunday, Fr. Gerber, the associate pastor at St. Joseph parish, rhetorically asked me in his homily “why I would want to sign up for living a life of celibacy.” The truth is on May 3rd, 2014 I stood before the Archbishop and promised to live a celibate life. Since Fr. Gerber publicly asked me the question, so following the command of St. Peter to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15) I feel it my duty to answer his question, in as public as a forum as I can. (While a more refined answer could certainly be given I have simply decided to answer off the cuff in the same manner that the question was asked.)

     The answer to Fr. Gerber’s question is actually very simple; God made me for celibacy. God made each and everyone of us in love and for love. He created every one of us for a purpose and He has a plan for each and every one of our lives. Ultimately we will be most fulfilled in this life if we live out His plan for us. God is truly generous and can fulfill our lives in many different ways. Both celibacy and marital chastity are goods in and of themselves but are ordered towards different ends.

     While I can easily say I am celibate because that was God’s plan for my life, that simple answer misses the point. You see, when I give that simple answer I am often asked by people “but what about all the things you are missing.” The truth is I am missing many goods, like a wife and a family, but that is still the wrong question to ask. Can’t we just as easily ask married couples what they are missing? Are they not missing many of the goods that I receive in my life of celibacy? Rather than ask what I am missing, perhaps we should ask what God is giving me in my promise of celibacy.

     In my 8 years in the seminary I have discerned that I can love best as a celibate. In living out a life of celibacy I find fulfillment both by turning inward to my personal relationship with the Holy Trinity and drawing on that relationship to turn outward to serve God’s people, just as Christ did. Through living out my promise of celibacy I am freed to love and serve in ways that give me great joy.

     In my life of celibacy, God has given me countless opportunities to form a deep relationship with Him in prayer and has given me the ability to give myself completely to God’s people wherever He decides to place me. While it is true I will not have a biological family, God makes up for that by giving me countless spiritual children. I am called to be a father to every single one of my parishioners, and in a particular way I am blessed to “father” new children into the Church through administering the sacrament of baptism (yes I do keep a list and I pray daily in a special way for all 19 children I have been blessed to baptize to date.) God called me to the gift of celibacy so that I can be of service to His Church and I am privileged to meet people at their most intimate times: at joyful occasions like births, marriages and moments of great success as well as at life’s most difficult moments, death, breakups, after grave sins and moments of great failure. This truth humbles me, for I know that I am charged with a sacred trust. I am charged to be Christ to those who come to me seeking Him.

     Living a celibate life, like living a married life, is not always easy, but God has given me the gift of many good priest friends and many others from all different walks of life to help support me in God’s plan for my life. All vows, married or celibate, are acts of faith, hope and love, and no one said these struggles are easy, but it is those struggles that helps make me more compassionate to the struggles of others.

     While living a celibate life appears so radically different, in many ways it is perfectly analogous with marriage. In fact much of what we can say about celibacy can properly be said about a couple presenting themselves for marriage. In a spiritual sense I can say I am married to the Church, because she is the entire focus of my life.

     I simply can’t imagine trying to love both a biological family and my parish family at the same time without failing both of them. My heart is filled to capacity and there simply is not room for a biological family because I have so many people in there right now. My life of celibacy is a full and free life, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

Can I attend a meeting with a Medjugorje visionary where an “apparition” is going to occur?

This weekend I was asked by a few parishioners if they should attend an upcoming meeting with Mr. Ivan Dragicevic in St. Charles on March 18th, where he claims an apparition of the Blessed Mother will take place. While I have my own personal views on Medjugorje, I am certainly not a mariologist and I am not an expert in the claimed Medjugorje apparitions, but I feel the need to fraternally remind all of us that in October of 2013, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States wrote a letter to the USCCB on behalf of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informing the Bishops that “clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences, or public celebrations during which the credibility of such “apparitions” would be taken for granted.”[1]

To the best of my knowledge and research, no additional instructions have come from the CDF, the Nuncio, the USCCB, or from Archbishop Carlson on this matter so I encouraged you not to attend. As faithful Catholics we must witness obedience to Holy Mother Church by our actions. I encourage you to use prudence, regardless of your personal views of Medjugorje, to ensure your actions respect the request of Holy Mother Church.

If I have missed an official statement to the contrary of the statement referenced above, I would be grateful if someone would kindly pass that statement on to me.

[1] Letter PN 3980 from the Apostolic Nunciature, United States of America.)

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

   JB 7:1-4, 6-7 / PS 147: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 / 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 / MK 1:29-39

     I dare say today’s first reading comes from the most depressing book in the bible. The book of Job narrates the story of the prophet Job, a just and loving man, who, lost everything overnight. In just one day all of his wealth and cattle were destroyed or stolen, all ten of his children were killed when his house collapsed, he was plagued with some kind of disease that covered him with boils and sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, his own wife turned against him. At last, left with nothing, he went out and sat on a dung-heap, scraping his sores with a piece of pottery. Sitting in pain Job raised his eyes to heaven and asked, what he did to deserve this suffering. If we contrast the story of Job with today’s gospel where Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons it can be easy for us to think that Job must have done something very wrong and God was punishing him, but nothing could be further from the truth.

     We must never think that any suffering, disaster, or misfortune that comes our way, is a punishment from God for our personal sin. If suffering was God’s punishment for personal sin, Jesus, God who became man and never sinned, would not have experienced suffering. Yet we need to look no further than the crucifix to see that He suffered more than most of us ever will. Certainly suffering is due to sin in general, but God never punishes us for committing a specific sin by bringing disaster into our life, just as He does not bless our good actions with financial gain. There are certainly natural consequences for our actions. If I go out and gamble away all of my money, I may find myself knee deep in debt and living on the streets and if I work hard I may find myself having financial success, but in both of these cases my fate is a consequence only of my actions and not a punishment or reward from God. We all know that at times in this life we will have to endure suffering and we can often be tempted to ask ourselves why does God permit this suffering, didn’t He come to heal the sick and cure the wounds of sin and division?

     Jesus did not come into this world to simply make us healthy, wealthy and wise. No, He came to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven and to raise us up to eternal life. It is interesting to note that the Greek word St. Mark uses in today’s gospel to describe the raising of St. Peter’s mother-in-law, is the same word he uses to describe the raising of Jesus from the dead.[1] In curing the sick and casting out demons, Our Lord shows us His purpose for coming to earth is to raise us up to eternal life. It is because God sent His only Son into the world to raise us up to Him that, even in our misery, we can say today with the psalmist “praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.”

     Jesus came into this world and freely took on our suffering to raise us up to eternal life. While God certainly has the power to remove all suffering from our life, in fact that was His plan before the sin of Adam and Eve, but if He removed suffering from our world, He would take away our ability to choose, which would also take away our ability to love Him and others, so God did the next best thing, He made suffering the means of our salvation. “Christ took our painful condition and made of it the way of true life.”[2] While we can often fall into the trap of believing that suffering is a bad thing, our Lord has transformed suffering into the means of our salvation for the fact that God allowed His son to die “shows two things very clearly. The first is that suffering and even total ruin do not signify a lack of love on the part of the Father. The second is that suffering is not in vain; it bears fruit and has redeeming power.”[3]

     Our Lord takes the sufferings we face in this world and uses them to give us opportunities to participate with His grace in our own salvation and the salvation of others in the Church. “Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering we learn who is our true friend.”[4] Suffering, when offered up in faith to God purifies our own soul and provides us the opportunity to offer up its merits for the health of the Body of Christ. Why not begin our day with a morning offering, where we offer to God all the joys and sufferings of our day and when suffering comes our way, why don’t we offer it to the Lord, asking Him to make it meritorious for you or another soul suffering in purgatory?

     You see “ultimately, far from ruining Christian hope, suffering is advantageous for it; it is even necessary. Without it, hope would be vague, an ill-defined yearning for happiness.”[5] It is only because we suffer that we can hold out hope for eternal life for in suffering we imitate God who “is a sufferer because he is a lover; the entire theme of the suffering God flows from that of the loving God and always points back to it.”[6] Since God came into this world to suffer for us we need to follow His example and suffer for others. It was Christ’s suffering that lead to His resurrection. Why should it be any different for us? When suffering comes into our life we must turn to the Lord and ask Him to give us the grace to endure that suffering.

     We should never forget that while the story of Job is dark and dreary it ends with Job receiving back all that he lost a hundred times over. God has taken the evil of human suffering and through His own suffering, transformed it into an opportunity to use it for the good and thus our “likeness to Jesus must be through suffering and humility.”[7] When we faithfully endure the sufferings of this life we can know that the good things of our life will be returned one hundredfold as we enter into the kingdom of heaven. So when we find ourselves in suffering why don’t we invite the Father to use that suffering to raise us up, just as he raised up Jesus from the dead.

[1] See Mk1:31 and Mk 16:6

[2] Cardinal Albert Vanhoe. Our Priest is Christ. (1969) pg. 20.

[3] Wilfrid Stinssen. Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011. pg 15

[4] St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). pg 153.

[5] Cardinal Albert Vanhoe. Our Priest is Christ. (1969) pg. 57.

[6] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Behold The Pierced One. San Francisco: Ignatius. (1986) pg 33.

[7] St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). pg 129.

A Healthy Attitude towards the Devil : An Introductory Response

     A little while back I was asked by a local Catholic High School to help review new potential theology textbooks. I certainly did not have the time to read cover to cover all of the books they wanted reviewed so I decided to investigate how each book addressed some controversial issues, and only if the book addressed the issue sufficiently would I read it in its entirety. When I reviewed books for the Scripture classes I paged through the book to see how it addressed Jesus curing the sick and performing exorcisms. Many textbooks explained away Jesus’ work by claiming the evangelists simply confused demonic possession with mental or physical illness or claimed that the evangelists used demons simply as personifications of evil in the world.

     Sadly today, often through not fault of their own, many people simply reject the notion that the devil is real. The problem with this view is it runs contrary to the New Testament, which speaks directly of Satan and the fallen angels as powerful intelligent beings capable of acting. St. Mark tells us “they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.”[1] and Jesus “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons.”[2] St. Mark clearly understood the difference between Christ’s healings and His exorcisms. Holy Mother Church also teaches us directly about the existence of the devil. The Catechism reminds us when we pray “deliver us from evil” in the Our Father it “is not an abstraction but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God.”[3]

     The devil is real, but while some scholars have gone to the extreme position of denying his existence others have gone to the other extreme and become obsessed with the demonic. Two weeks ago I was with the youth group at my parish at their weekly bible study and since they have been properly catechized they believed Jesus performed exorcisms and they were naturally interested in demonic possession. They had many questions because unfortunately many of us either don’t believe the devil exists or we have an unhealthy fear of the devil, so the topic is never seriously engaged. As we discussed the devil and demonic possession I warned each of them not to focus on the devil, but rather Christ, for any spirituality that is focused on the devil is not an authentic Christian spirituality. Certainly each of us has to face our own temptations in our personal battle with the devil, but the ultimate battle has been won by the resurrection of our Lord and the evil one cannot have power over us if only we are willing to seek communion with Him.

     “The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything.”[4] We no longer need to be downtrodden as some of the Old Testaments prophets, like Job were. All of us, who have been baptized, must live with hope, for our souls have been fortified from the devil and the only way for him to have any effect on us is if we let him in. We must be like sunflowers, always pointing ourselves towards Him who is the light. What happens to a sunflower in the dark? Of course it turns in on itself and dies; likewise when we take our eyes off of Light Himself, Christ, and focus on Darkness himself, the devil, we too die.

     While we want to recognize that the devil is real and we want to fortify ourselves against him, we must remember that the devil only has power over us if we give it to him. Provided we are striving to live virtuous lives, frequently receive the Sacrament of Confession and frequently partaking in the Holy Eucharist we have nothing to fear because no trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tested beyond your strength.[5] “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”[6] Our best defense against the devil is to run from him. My brothers and sisters never forget the devil but keep your attention focused on Christ.

[1] Mk 1:32

[2] Mk 1:34

[3] CCC 2851

[4] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium par 84. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

[5] 1 Cor 10:13

[6] James 4:10