February 1, 2009, Year B
Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: Have You Come to Destroy Us?
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)
Sometimes we forget who the enemy of the soul is. This failure causes complacency in our life of prayer, leaving us vulnerable to the tricks of the devil. Jesus is clear. If the evil spirt has been evicted from our life, and returns finding the 'house empty' albeit 'swept and put in order,' the evil spirit can return with seven other spirits more evil than himself, causing the last state of that man to be worse than the first. It is the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that will keep us full of grace.
The power of the Lord is real. In confession and other devotional habits we discover this is true. Today's readings reveal a God who desires his people to be liberated from the deception of the devil. He asks us to have faith that he will 'deliver us from evil.' Such faith will face temptation, temptation designed to lure us away from the power of God. But God does not allow temptation to be beyond our strength to choose the good.
Resisting the devil is not just for our good. In our resistance to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life we remain free to serve others without condescension, remembering 'all have sinned.' No one enters this life immune to the power of the evil one.
In whatever station of life we are called to we are to embrace it with the liberty as children of God. Whether married or single, we are called to the freedom of him who said, "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed." If we will but resist the devil he will flee from us.
Our freedom leads us deeply into the power of the Cross in which Jesus triumphantly disarmed the principalities and powers, making of them a public example. (Colossians 2:15) In Jesus, we resist the same satanic power He resisted in the Garden of his temptation. It was there Satan demanded open and absolute homage. In that blatant disdain for the God of all love, Satan was reminded that only God is to be worshipped and served.
Satan can make what's not good for us very desirable, but no one compromises to the betterment of their life. The empty and vague promises of the devil can come in the middle of the night or in the middle of a conversation. However you are tempted to take the low way, it's still low, it's still burdensome, it's still death.
No one has ever negotiated with the devil and won.
The history of salvation from Moses to Jesus, reveals that the heart can be the very seat of Satan, becoming a hardened heart. It is the hardened heart that demands the compassion we deny others. A hardened heart accepts its own imperfections while demanding perfection of every one else. The hardened heart seeks only its interests while thinking our neighbor is getting what he deserves. This vicious cycle shows that 'the heart is deceptively vile' and full of darkness. Out of the heart comes evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and slander.
Yes, Satan! Christ has come to destroy you! No life is beyond redemption; the outstretched arm of the Lord is ever present.
Yet it's possible to revere God out of form; ritually correct, without embracing the power of the one who is worshipped and glorified. It is the power of the Holy Spirit we need; the Spirit of the prophets, the Spirit who sets the captive free, heals the broken hearted and sets at liberty the oppressed. The power that hovered over the world in creation's story, descended upon the nascent Church so she would carry the name of Jesus with power.
Jesus said, "In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues, they will pick up serpents, if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
In the Church there is a haven of rest. This rest is for the liberation of the sons and daughters of earth. Ravaged by Satan's power they seek a refuge and a restoration. To be more than conquerors; to enter into the freedom of the children of God, to be no longer aliens, but friends of the most high, they come. The weak, the weary and the wounded come asking if there is room at the cross for them. Under the gaze of the crucifix they become new creations, the old passes away, behold He makes all things new.
Satan and his minions, toppled again! Hallelujah!
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, where I have compromised, bring me back to the truth. Where I have wandered by thought, word or deed, bring me back to prayer. Whereever I have not resisted in the power of your Spirit, fill me again with heaven's sweet Holy Ghost so that in my life you are glorified. Amen.
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
1 Cor. 7:32-35