This past Sunday, Fr. Gabriel spoke about Halloween, and the dangers of trivializing the images associated with this secular observance.  Here are some excerpts from the sermon:

...It (Halloween) is, for the most part just that…innocent fun.  Sometimes, however, in our innocent fun, we trivialize, or just flat out forget the reason or meaning of the observance. 

The question I want to pose this morning for all of us to ponder is this:  In the midst of a society that immerses itself every October in images of demons and witches…where is the fear?  The answer, dear brothers and sisters, is the scariest part of the Halloween itself.  We find that there is no fear, because the world simply does not take evil seriously anymore. The temptation is there to see all of these Halloween images as fictional, and to simply regard things like the devil or demons as fantasy.

We as Christians have to understand that demons DO exist…and we MUST believe in them.  When we read the lives of the saints, we hear so many times about how these holy men graphically fought against evil and the presence of the demons.  We reference these demons in all of our services…most especially in baptism!  We as Christians should know what it means to be harassed by the devil…and know how to push back against this evil.

How appropriate, dearest brothers and sisters, that on the eve of this secular observance we read in the Gospels about a man that was truly possessed by demons, and was healed by our Lord and Savior.

Because of Christ, we live in an age of a bound up devil…but this poor man lived in an age of a tyrannous devil…an unbound Satan.  We live in an age where death is under our feet…but he lived in an age where death was over his head as a large black cloud…with no answers , and no hope of an eternal life with God. 

The gospel today is a window into that old world…a demon infested old world where people were completely dominated.  The description we hear of this poor man was that he was stripped of EVERYTHING.  His sense of dignity, his clothes, his family, his job, his home, the Holy Spirit, God’s Favor…even his own name.  The demons stripped him of his personhood…and he was left alone.  He had NOTHING.  He lived in the tombs…and day after day, this man pondered his death.

The demon-possessed man was beneath a lot of people, but not beneath our Savior, who came restored the image of God within him.  Christ restored this man to his former glory, and after this great miracle, we find this newly healed servant sitting at the feet of Christ as a humble learner.  His relationship with God was fixed and restored, and he was a free person once again.  

We read this same Gospel story July, and in that sermon I talked about the reaction of the villagers and how out of fear, they asked Christ to leave.  I said that whether we know it or not, we in our lives are often guilty of the same sin as the villagers.  We are so blinded by the pride of our own perceived power in life, that we ignore the fact that the devil exists, or worse, we think that we can overcome him without Christ.  We do not fear evil, and we echo the words of the villagers when we ask Christ:  “What do I need you for?  I’m doing well on my own…shoo!”

I saw a quote on Facebook the other day, that had a smiling (and horribly confused) Joel Olsteen on the front, and a quote from his book “Your Best Life Now” which said: 

“You will often receive preferential treatment in life simply because your Father is the King of Kings, and His Glory and Honor will spill onto you.”

 Underneath the smiling Joel was a quote from St. Paul in His epistle to the Corinthians.  This Holy Saint, who lived a life of repentance, faith, and good works, said of his life in Christ the following: 

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”

Does this sound like a man receiving preferential treatment in life?!

What St. Paul is saying here is that you know you are on the right track in the Christian life, if hardships and temptation of the bound up devil are seeking to bring you down.  I often tell people that the devil doesn’t hang out at brothels and other places of sin, because he knows he has those people.  He instead goes to Churches.  He goes to good Christian houses and attacks the people who are trying to live a life like Christ. 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I won’t tell you what to do with decorating your houses during the year …I simply tell you all of this out of love and ask that in the midst of a society which sees these things as trivial…you be that beacon of light which shines on the darkness of the world.

Your duty as a Christian is to take the light you will receive with the Holy Eucharist today and to keep it bright to illuminate others.  Today and always, let us not forget that demons are real…they exist…and if we are living an authentic Christian life, they will do everything in their limited power to rip us off of the path to salvation and eternal life.  This is why we come to Church.  It is the place where we receive nourishment through the Body and Blood of God, to repel their attacks, to turn our back on the deceiver, and come into that loving embrace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.