they who hear the word of God and keep it.”
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
90-Translated from the Old Latin
The greatest modern victory of the
devil may well be that he has convinced so many people that he does not
exist. Most people seem to think of him as a cartoon character—a cute
little red guy with cat-like ears and a pointy tail. This misconception
puts most people off guard and keeps them from taking the proper steps
toward living a spiritual life.
In today’s Gospel we read about our
Lord “casting out devils.” We probably associate such a phrase with the
extreme case of someone being “possessed by the devil”—a pretty much direct
control of the unfortunate person. While such possession is relatively
rare, it is certainly not the only kind of control that the devil exercises
over people. Most of the work of the evil one is in playing up to our
desires and our prejudices, causing us to consider that something is good
for us even though it is not.
It is important to understand that
all of God’s creations are good. God creates nothing that is evil in
itself. Even things which we consider highly annoying have a part to play
in the over-all working of our world. Mice and mosquitos, for example, play
a part in the ecological balance of nature—they are not evil—and, certainly,
they have no evil intent!
It is only when we try to misuse
God’s good creations that we work evil and fall into sin. Virtually
anything can be misused—perhaps by using it to excess, or at the wrong time,
or under the wrong circumstances. Food and drink, for example, are good and
absolutely essential to our survival—but we can sin by taking too much of a
good thing, or by failing to take them in the correct proportions. Human
speech is another good thing, but it can be misused by using it falsely, or
threateningly, or to harm the reputation of another, or to take the name of
God in vain. Various goods of the earth are available to us, but we should
only use those which belong to us, or which we have permission from their
rightful owners. Certainly, we can all think of other things which are good
but which can be used improperly.
Indeed, since so many of God’s
creations can be sinfully misused, we should be ever on our guard to ward
off temptation before it takes hold and we consent to some evil thought or
deed. We might say that we must be continually “casting out devils.”
It is not surprising that the Church
had us read from Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today.
For it gives us some direction about casting out our devils. “Be
imitators of God,” he says. That may be a tall order, but think about
how useful it would be—it is never in God’s will to misuse the things of His
creation—and Saint Paul is urging us to imitate God’s will in ourselves.
God is perfect, and that is what
makes Him so hard to imitate, but Paul is suggesting (quite correctly) that
we can completely (that is, perfectly) eliminate many bad things from our
lives: “But immorality, or every uncleanness or covetousness … or
obscenity, or foolish talk, or scurrility, let them not even be named
among you.” Not only should we eliminate immoral things from our
lives—we shouldn’t even discuss or consider the possibility of doing them!
“Walk in love, as
Christ also loved us….” Christ’s love was not the love that seeks to
possess—rather it was truly sacrificial—an offering of self to secure
something good for the beloved. Sacrificial love covers a multitude of
“Let no one lead you astray with
empty words….” Paul is suggesting that the devil you need to cast out
may come in the form of another human being, trying to convince you with
fancy words that it is wise to misuse the goods of creation. Just ignore
“You were once darkness, but now
you are light in the Lord. Walk then as children of light, for the fruit of
the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth.” Be careful of
sliding back into old bad habits. It is too easy to regress back into the
darkness of bad habits.
In the Gospel, Our Lord specifically
cautioned about this problem of going back to evil ways. The soul of the
repentant sinner is a particular prize to the devil who has been thrown
out. The devil returns, “and he takes with him seven other evil spirits,
even more evil than himself … and the last state of the man becomes worse
than the first.” The prayer and fasting that we learn during Lent
prepare us to meet temptations throughout the year—if we can deny ourselves
the legitimate pleasures of life, it becomes far easier to deny the
illegitimate pleasures. The good habit of praying Mary’s Rosary is easy
enough to extend to the rest of the year—remember that God promised that
Mary would be at enmities with the devil—she is his polar opposite and will
help us to be the same.
Likewise, the habit of frequent
Confession and Holy Communion ought to become a year round practice. If the
devil tempts us to sin, nothing can bring us further to holiness than the
possession of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying grace of His Sacraments.
What better way to avoid the possession of the devil than to be possessed by
God, the Son of God, Himself.
they who hear the word of God and keep it.”