10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 10, 2018
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Most people don’t like to talk about him, nowadays.
And when they do, they often reduce him to something that’s easy to deal with:
they marginalize him as a myth,
reduce him to a mere superstition,
make him the boogey man of our nightmares and horror movies,
or perhaps make him merely a misunderstood rake.
Even many Christians tend to do this: we’d like to believe he doesn’t exist
But the thing is he does exist.
He is real, personal and powerful.
Scripture and tradition are absolutely clear.
In today’s gospel we hear Jesus talking about the devil
with a certainty that presumes his reality.
And He does this, not only because He’s God the Son,
who’s known the devil from the beginning,
but because as a human being He personally encountered him,
face to face, when He went out into the desert for 40 days,
where Satan repeatedly tried to tempt Him.
And “the Devil” is not one, but many.
So today’s Gospel speaks of “demons,” plural.
Scripture and tradition tell us that the devils are actually fallen angels,
who were created like all the other heavenly angels,
but who chose to follow Lucifer, or “the bearer of light,”
the greatest of all the angels,
who was so glorious he wanted to be “like God.”
One strain of tradition tells us that God informed all the angels
that he was planning to create man in his own image,
and that God the Son would become a man
—and that the angels would serve Him.
But Lucifer and his friends couldn’t countenance the idea
that they would have to serve such a lowly creature as man,
and famously responded, “Non servium,” “I will not serve.”
He did not serve, and still does not serve either God, or man.
Rather he hates them both—he hates God and he hates man.
And we see this in today’s first reading from the book of Genesis,
part of the story of the fall of Adam and Eve.
God asks Eve why she disobeyed him and ate from the forbidden tree,
and she responds: “The serpent tricked me into it….”
Remember, the serpent, meaning the devil, had told her that
God had lied to her about the tree, that it was a good thing to eat:
“You certainly will not die!” As God had said.
“God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened
and you will be like gods….”
Notice, he implies that God is the liar, not himself,
and he preys upon the fact that she imagines that being “like gods”
might be a good thing.
He lies, and manipulates, and so brings about Adam and Eve’s,
and all mankind’s, fall from grace, and eventually death.
As Jesus tells us about the devil:
“He was a murderer from the beginning,
…. he is a liar and the father of lies.
And so he calls him is “the Enemy” of God and man, or in Hebrew, “Satan.”
And so St. Peter tells us elsewhere in Scripture:
“Be sober and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”
Now, the roads to heaven or hell, the life of love or the life of sin,
are choices that each human being makes.
When He created in His image, God gave us the free will He has,
and His love prohibits him from taking that away from us.
But the thing is, the devil can’t take it away from us either:
he can’t force us to sin.
But he can tempt us, he can try to deceive and lie and manipulate us,
to freely choosing to sin.
So how does the devil do that?
First, remember who he is: he is, or they are, fallen angels,
so they are spiritual beings with the vast supernatural power of angels.
The most important thing to know about their powers
is that they are incredibly intelligent
—much much smarter than we are naturally,
and they’ve been around forever, so they’ve seen it all—
they know how human beings work,
and like a great chess player, they see 10 moves ahead of us.
And so even though they can’t read our minds–only God can do that–
they know us so well that it’s almost as if they can read our minds.
They remember how we responded to this or that event in the past,
and they know exactly what we’re going to do the next time.
They can see the change in our eyes, or our skin tone,
or the tenseness of our mouth or muscles,
and they know what we’re thinking
—they’ve seen it since we were babies,
and they’ve seen it in centuries of human beings before us.
And most importantly, they know our personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities
—physical, mental and emotional—
and they prey on them: they know exactly how to “push our buttons.”
So, for example,
the devil knows you’ve had a long day,
and that you have a little bit of quick temper when you’re tired,
and that driving makes you a little anxious.
So you’re driving home, and someone is driving a little too close behind you,
and the devil whispers,
“who does he think he is? you should make him pay for that….”
And the rest is predictable.
Or he whispers: “go ahead, look at that, it’s okay…”,
“go ahead, take that, know one will know…”
He’s not forcing you, but the father of lies is manipulating you,
and you play right into his hands.
Especially if you don’t even want to admit that he’s doing it,
much less that he even exists!
Clearly, the devil is around today, in our lives and throughout society.
Not only tempting us individually, but tempting society as a whole.
He tempts the high school kid to shoot up his school.
He tempts the terrorists with the lie of 70 virgins in paradise.
He tempts the frightened woman with an unplanned pregnancy.
He tempts the young person who struggles with their sexual identity.
He tempts the successful businessman to think that wealth is more important
than family or caring for his neighbor.
And the thing is, all the demons tempt us all together, there is a plan.
As Jesus says in today’s Gospel:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
…if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
Satan’s house is not divided: all the demons stand together, against us.
And so we look around and see not only a bunch of individual sins,
but a world that seems to be systematically warping into a whole culture of sin.
Have I scared you a little bit?
I hope so.
We should be scared of the devil.
Remember what Jesus says in Scripture:
“be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
But on the other hand, remember what Jesus said right after that:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
…. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
You should be afraid of the devil,
but kind of like I’m afraid of burglars breaking into my house.
I mean, bad folks are out there, so I lock the doors at night, turn on the alarm,
and maybe I keep a pistol next to my bed…Maybe.
And then I ask God to watch over my rectory and fall to sleep like a baby.
The thing is, the devil is not all-powerful or all-knowing—but God is.
With God all things are possible.
And so we go back to today’s first reading,
and we see that God looks down on the devil crawling on his belly,
and says to him:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”
This is the promise that God the Son would become a man, born of a woman,
and while the devil will cause his problems,
the all-powerful Son will inevitable crush his head.
The promise of Jesus and His victory on the Cross.
And so we read in Scripture:
“If God is for us, who can be against us? ….
neither angels nor demons, …. will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And again: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
And so, while we have to be alert to and cautious of the damage he can cause,
we don’t have to be afraid, if we allow God to help us.
If we, as St. Paul says elsewhere, we:
“put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Jesus tells us today:
“no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.”
So don’t tie up the strong man!
In particular, don’t keep Jesus tied up by your sins,
but let him loose in your life by keeping His will.
And don’t lock Him out of your house—let Him in by your prayers,
and by being open to the fullness of His grace.
In particular, be open to the two great sources of grace
Jesus gives us to fight the devil:
the sacrament of Confession, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Go to frequent confession to untie the strong man,
to allow Jesus to forgive you and to live inside of you,
and to receive the grace to make you strong with His own power.
And don’t ever be discouraged by sins:
Christ is our hope; and discouragement comes from the devil.
Remember, as Jesus says today,
“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies will be forgiven them.”
And there’s the second and the greatest sacramental weapon: the Eucharist.
There is nothing the devil fears more, nothing that better fends off his assaults,
than the sacrament that makes the sacrifice of the Cross really present to us,
and unites our bodies with the very body and blood of the Crucified Jesus.
Because it is by the Cross that Jesus crushed the serpent’s head,
and it is by the cross that Jesus says
to both the God the Father and the mankind,
not “I will not serve,”
but “I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom for the many.”
These are the greatest armors and weapons God has given us.
But there’s so many more.
There’s St. Michael and his legions of angels.
And there is, of course, Mary, of whom God spoke when he promised the devil,
“I will put enmity between you and the woman!”
The devil runs in fear from the very presence of the Mother of God.
Cling to her, and she will protect you.
The devil is no myth, no superstition, no harmless rake, no joke,
He is real, powerful, and he hates us.
We must be sober and alert of him and his temptations.
But we must also have faith and confidence that Christ will crush his head for us.
As we now enter more deeply into this holy Mass,
surrounded by all the heavenly angels and saints,
with St. Michael and Our Blessed Mother, and St. Raymond too,
let us bow deeply to worship and adore before the Son of God made man,
Jesus Christ, as He descends from heaven to this altar.
And as gives Himself to us in Holy Communion,
let us give ourselves to Him as well,
and so be united to the one who serves both God and man,
and have His strength to resist the temptations and snares of the devil,
the enemy of God and man: who says, “I will not serve.”