Thursday 7 March

Luke 11:14-23  •  SS Perpetua and Felicity (Memorial)

When you hear the Scriptures read at Mass or when you read them in private and you come across references, as we do today, to the devil, how do you react and respond? Do you roll your eyes and think how primitive and unsophisticated it is to believe in personified evil? If you do, you are in good company. In the film The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, Fr Damien Karras, a trained psychiatrist, does not believe in evil or a personified devil but believes the symptoms attributed to the devil are due to psychiatric illness and personality disorder. His view is at odds with Fr Lankester Merrin who is a diocesan exorcist and has no doubts whatsoever that the devil and his realm are real, as is demonic possession. The Exorcist illustrates powerfully how the sacraments of the Church and the ministry of an exorcist are agents in overcoming evil when manifest in the form of possession and control over people’s lives.

Thankfully the Church has never hesitated to teach that evil and the devil are real threats to the believer and to the Church. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews summed up the purpose of Jesus’ entire mission as to overcome the evil one: ‘so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’ (2:14-15 NIV). James taught, ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’ (Jas. 4:7) Peter exhorted: ‘Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…’ (1 Pet. 5:8-9). The greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world he doesn’t exist. But Scripture and the Church, ever vigilant, have resisted this ruse from the beginning. St Augustine taught that ‘the devil often transforms himself into an angel to tempt us’, and that is why we must be as shrewd as serpents to resist him. We are engaged in a spiritual conflict, a spiritual war, and only the strong are able to subdue the strong man.

We pray with Peter, the rock of the Church, ‘Get behind me, Satan. I resist you in the power of the name, the cross and the blood of Christ.’

Jeremiah 7:23-28  •  Psalm 94(95):1-2, 6-9
Luke 11:14-23

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