Our Lord speaks to us in so many different ways in this life. When our minds are quieted, we are able to hear and feel His presence in prayer. He provides daily miracles for us, some of which we can see, and others which are hidden. He softens our hearts at certain times during the day when it is most needed. He communicates to His creation in many ways, if only we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
This past week has been no different. As our country prepares for the secular holiday of Halloween, the Church has given us some incredible reminders through the daily readings these past few days, culminating with the Gospel lesson that we just heard, about the reality and dangers of demons and demonic possession. Over the next few days, as the rest of the world will poke fun of witches and devils as fictional characters, we are reminded every day through our own spiritual warfare, that Satan is an absolute reality…and he is buzzing EVERYWHERE in the world.
Last week, we had a beautiful baptism of Daniel. At the very beginning of the service, he was facing away from the altar in the back of the Church. With his Godparents speaking for him, he was asked:“Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his angels, and all his service, and all his pride?” And his response was: “I do renounce Him”…and Satan was literally spit upon, before he turned and faced the altar of God.
This is a beautiful image of how we are all called to orient our entire life. All of us here today who were baptized into the Ancient Christian Faith, began our journey towards light by doing that exact same thing. We renounced the devil, we acknowledged his existence, we spat on him, and we turned ourselves towards God. That re-orientation is so important brothers and sisters, yet every so often, in our own human weakness, we tend to peer back over our shoulder at that life that we swore to leave behind, and allow the demons to slowly enter back into our lives. We become possessed with the demon of pride…of judgement…of gluttony…of lust…or of anger…and we enter into the exact same state that Legion was in the Gospel this morning.
There are some who probably saying to themselves now, “Father, that’s a little heavy handed”…but let’s think about it for a minutes. How many of us can point to a time where we got angry with someone or something? In those moments, unbeknownst to us in the moment, we act as if we have become demon possessed! We change our physical appearance as our face becomes red and scrunches together. We do irrational things that we would never do. We say things that we would never say. How many times have we put our foot in our mouth, in response to anger at someone or something?
Depending on the duration and situation of the possession, the demon of anger, even if it is just for a short time, can destroy careers. It can rip apart relationships. It can even destroy families…all because for a single moment, we turned and let the devil reign.
How many wars have been started…how many innocent people have lost their lives, because of men and women who have been possessed by one of the demon of anger…or greed? You want scary stuff this time of year? Find me a haunted house that can destroy the world, the way that the passions can?
It is of the utmost importance that we keep the door of demons behind us shut, and spend our lives letting the virtuous light of the Altar shine. If there are areas in your God-given conscience that you know need to be addressed…pick one of them and invite God in! Allow His light to more fully possess you. Grow in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. And most importantly, ASK GOD FOR HELP IN KEEPING YOUR FOCUS FORWARD!
We heard in the Gospels this week: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” This verse does not work when you ask for the winning numbers of the power-ball! Those verses only work when we seek virtue…when we orient our lives towards Christ, and run away from the life that we turned from in the beginning.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I will leave you with two action verbs which need to be remembered when dealing with demons. The first one is “Run”. Run away from Greed. Run away from Anger. Run away from the passions which seek to drive a wedge in between you and union with God. If you get angry on the internet, run away from the internet. If you can’t read the opinion’s page of the newspaper without enflaming a passion…unsubscribe. If you are prone to the demon of lust, run away from filth on television that will spark a fire. If you are prone to the demon of avarice, learn to give thanks daily for what you have been given. Run from evil…run from the back doors of the Church, and do what the little ones do: Run towards the altar of God. This is our proper orientation.
If through your own weaknesses are not able to run quick enough, then the second word is necessary: “fight”. If the door of temptation is opened ever so slightly…fight, fight, fight. Use the tools that God has given you: Holy Scripture, your prayer ropes, and the writings of the fathers. Ask Him DAILY for help in the battle with the passions, and you will receive it. And once our passions have finally been driven out, when we are once again re-oriented towards the Altar of God, we follow the example of that healed man in the Gospel today, and we go out into the world and tell them how a relationship with God will change their lives.
May we all become more vigilant of our own personal demons which seek to do us harm, and more willing to ask God for his help in becoming conquerors of our passions!