“Brothers and sisters: Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the Devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.” (Eph 6,10-14)
St. Paul caused a little bit of a stir yesterday with this reading from his letter to the Ephesians. Pope Francis picked up on this reading and emphasized for everyone that the Devil is real and is not some mythical creature or some fairy tale monster to scare children into good behavior, nor is he just a personification of evil. The Devil is real and we must fight against him. I also saw a couple of interviews with exorcists who were able to quite graphically confirm that the Devil is real and that he is not someone that you want to invite into your life by being involved in the occult (skip the Ouija movie, you don’t know what might be sitting next to you). These courageous priests have conducted tens of thousands of exorcisms and there is no doubt that they have encountered demons who are tormenting people. Real stench, real supernatural strength and extraordinary knowledge, real projectile vomiting, and these demons hate God’s holy people. The exorcist will get the demon to name himself and then they are able to assert the authority of Jesus Christ to cast out the demon. These are real battles for souls and not something to be dismissed off hand.
We can’t just avoid the Devil because he seemingly is everywhere these days. So we must prepare ourselves with the best defense that we can by “putting on the armor of God.” With God on our side we don’t have to worry about the Devil for, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8,31) God needs us to be bold and courageous in our faith in “this present darkness”. He needs us to fight the good fight and resist evil and temptation to sin at every turn of our lives. We must be vigilant in our fight against evil, it is no time to be lazy and careless. Besides the defensive armor that we put on we carry one weapon that is “the sword of the Spirit, that is the word of God.” Remember what good use Jesus made of that sword when he battled the Devil in the desert of temptation. The word of God needs to always be close at hand.
A lot of people lament in the confessional that they are doing the best that they can to try to rid themselves of habitual sin. They speak about sin as some personal weakness, psychological problem or some other defect in the ego but St. Paul reminds us that our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the Devil and evil spirits. You can’t beat the Devil with some psychological affirmations, the Devil wrote that book. We must engage in a spiritual battle with spiritual tools that our Lord is happy to help and equip us with. We need to engage in real conversion and begin to live a new life in Christ Jesus. We hear constantly about all of the people who have left the Church and no longer practice any faith. What can we do about this? We can do “everything to hold your ground.” We need to stand in the breach and live our faith as a clear witness of the real presence of God in our lives through the living Word, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of love. We need to “pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” We need to evangelize and bring people gently back to discipleship and following our Lord Jesus.
I also saw a clip from Paul Harvey, a journalist from 1965 in which he was outlining, “What would I do if I was the Devil?” It was eerie how prophetic his message was and how pretty much all of what he outlined has been done and are a synopsis of the social ills that we face today and we are now living in “this present darkness” as a result of all of those changes. Not flesh and blood but principalities and powers and evil spirits.
We need to unmask the Devil and see his handiwork in many of the problems we are struggling with in our society today. We need to take our formation for spiritual battle serious and get back to prayer, worship, moral formation in the virtues and grounding in the Word of God. We need to pay attention to what our children are being exposed to and what they are learning. We really need to do everything that we can to turn things around. We need to do it with love, patience, charity, mercy, kindness, peace, courage, compassion and clarity, every fruit of the Holy Spirit active in our lives. Pray hard, believe firmly, love deeply and hope with confidence in the victory that has already been accomplished through the Passion of our Lord.