26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 30, 2018
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today’s gospel beings with the words,
“John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name…”
This is one of many many times that Scripture
recognizes the existence of demons or devils,
and the reality of their objective of tormenting man and mankind.
We can also think of Satan personally tempting Jesus in the desert,
or Eve in the Garden.
Christians believe this, because God revealed it to us,
and because we see the work of the devil all around us.
But, thanks be to God, Christians also believe in the Angels,
the holy creatures who exist to love and serve God completely,
and because God loves us, they love and serve us also.
And they also are real, personal beings.
In fact, yesterday we celebrated the feast day of 3 of these persons:
the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
St. Michael is particularly important because he is the Prince of the angels,
the General of the heavenly army of angels,
leading them in constant battle against Satan and his minions,
protecting us, and leading us in the way of peace.
And so the angelic-satanic battle wages.
One person who never had to be convinced of all this was Pope Leo XIII.
Because one day in 1881, while he was praying after Mass,
he had a supernatural vision that vividly revealed Satan and his devils
and their work to conquer mankind.
The Pope never spoke publicly about what he saw,
and there are several different versions that come down to us.
One account tells us he saw the battle vividly raging.
Another tells us that, much like in the story of Job,
he heard Jesus allow Satan to have a freer hand to tempt mankind
for a period of 50 or 60 or 100 years, or for the whole of the 20th century,
depending on what story you believe.
You can believe this or not, but, just so you know,
St. John Paul II believed that Leo had at least had a vision
of the angelic battle being waged against the demons.
So I believe it too.
And I think the visions were clearly prophetic,
as the next century saw the horrors of World War I and World War II,
the rise of atheistic Communism and Marxism, and radical Islamism.
And then the mainstreaming of sexual abuse and perversion, contraception,
attacks on marriage, and abortion.
Have you ever wondered why all these things are happening:
why mankind is seemingly out to destroy itself
and its relationship with God?
Even if you don’t believe in the vision of Leo, it seems pretty clear
that it’s not merely some human conspiracy,
but the cunning and calculated plan of the enemy of mankind—Satan.
After all, he hates man, because Man is created in the image of God,
whom he hates with his whole being.
So he hates man and tries to destroy that which is most important
for man’s happiness and wellbeing: marriage and family.
And he hates man, so he seeks to destroy his confidence and trust
in the means of his salvation, the Church,
as he first tempts priests to commit sinful acts abusing their children,
even though Jesus warns, as we read today:
“it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
And then the devil tempts bishops and cardinals to cover it up,
and promote the abusers.
And he hates man, so he seeks to take his life,
so he tempts us to kill each other by the thousands and millions in war.
But not only in war, but also in the scourge that must make him most gleeful:
killing millions of little babies in abortion.
Last week, as I watched the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh,
I couldn’t help but think about all this.
First, seeing the horrible pain that Dr. Ford seems to have been through,
the effect of the devil’s turning of the act of love into an act of hate,
and so turning man against woman and woman against man.
But then there was also the politicians’ despicable attempts
to aggravate this division by insisting that in every claim of abuse,
we must always “believe the woman”,
no questions, no alternative explanations,
and so never believe anything the man says,
and always presume he’s guilty and should just “shut up,”
even if by all accounts he is one of the finest men you’ll ever know.
Again, the satanic turning of woman against man, absolute distrust,
that goes on to destroy all societal relationships
A destruction that goes right back to the garden of Eden.
But even more than all that, I saw the devil’s hand manipulating events,
as politicians continued to abuse this woman,
using her pain as a weapon in their demonic battle to defend
what seems inexplicably most precious to them:
the killing of babies in abortion.
Because that’s what this appointment to the Supreme Court is all about:
for most of us here it was about ending abortion,
and for most of the left it’s about keeping abortion.
All this, from the scandals in the Church, to the violence on the streets,
to the rise of Marxism in our own country, to terrorism,
to the degradation of marriage and sexuality,
to abortion… all of this is part of Satan’s war on mankind and God.
And it can be overwhelming to us, and lead us to despair and to give up.
And wouldn’t the devil like that?
But we don’t have to give up.
Because it’s a war against not just man, but against God as well.
And God will not lose, and he will not abandon mankind.
If we think about it, Pope Leo’s vision was not just of the coming days,
but really also a vision of the last days:
it sounds a lot like a vision of St. John had in the “Book of Revelation.”
And there, in “Revelation,” just when the devil seems to be winning the war,
something remarkable happens:
“war broke out in heaven:
Michael and his angels fought with the dragon;
and the dragon and his angels …did not prevail
…the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old,
called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…”
And so, the story goes, when Pope Leo saw this vision,
he immediately sat down and wrote a prayer,
a prayer he commanded the whole church to pray after almost every Mass.
And that prayer was the Prayer to St. Michael,
that we pray here at St. Raymond’s after every Mass.
For some unknown reason, Pope Paul VI lifted that requirement in 1964.
But he didn’t say we couldn’t continue the tradition of Pope Leo it if we want to.
So I have included that prayer at the end of every Mass I’ve offered
during my 22 ½ years as a priest.
My friends, St. Peter tells us in scripture:
“Be alert and of sober mind.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.”
So we must not pretend the devil’s not around, or harmless,
or not a thousand times more cunning and manipulative than we are.
That’s not to say that we can blame the devil for all our misfortunes or sins;
it is not true that, “the devil made me do it.”
No, men and women sin and do evil by their own free choosing.
But the devil is always there encouraging it,
and using our sins, coordinating our sins,
to try to destroy us, and to mock God.
So, we must, as St. Peter goes on to tell us, “resist him, solid in our faith.”
And we must continually call on the great Prince of the Heavenly Hosts
to defend us in our battle with Satan.
Confident, that by the power of God he will cast him and his minions
into hell forever.
Now, the name Michael is Hebrew for “who is like God.”
But we’re not sure exactly how to take this.
Catholic tradition tells us that before his fall from heaven
the angel Lucifer was so caught up in his own magnificence
that he did not want to serve, but wanted to be adored like God.
Of course, this which was his great sin, and God cast him out of heaven,
and now calls him the “enemy,” or, in Hebrew, “Satan.”
On the other hand, Michael, in his great humility, did not seek to be adored,
but to rather serve adore and lead others to serve and adore God alone.
So we can say, “who is like God?” as a question,
and Michael boldly answers “no one is like God.”
Or we say, “who is like God” as a description,
so that Michael in his humility is, in a way, “like God,”
like Jesus, in his humility.
So we not only seek Michael’s protection, but also, we seek to be like him.
First by resolutely fighting with him and his angels against Satan.
But also, by joining him in living life as he does
—humbly loving and serving God and our fellow men.
St. Michael defends us from Satan,
but perhaps the greatest thing he does for us is lead us to Christ.
And there’s no way he does this more importantly than in the Eucharist.
Many of the great saints have speculated that St. Michael was the angel
“assigned” as the guardian angel of Jesus when he was on earth.
And so the theory goes, after the Ascension, St. Michael was “assigned”
to stay as the guardian angel of Jesus on earth—in the Eucharist.
In fact, some wonder if he is not the angel referred to in the Eucharistic Prayer,
when we pray,
“command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel
to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty…”
In any case, it seems that whether in the tabernacle or on the altar
or in Holy Communion,
St. Michael is right there next to Jesus in the Eucharist,
not merely protecting and guarding him, but adoring him.
Because that is what all angels to first and foremost—they love and adore God.
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name…”
Today, be aware of the devil and all his minions that seek to harm you.
But do not be afraid.
Call on the gift God has given us to drive away all demons:
St. Michael and his angelic hosts.
And let the great Archangel not only protect you,
but also lead you to Jesus.
And as we join Michael in adoring and worshipping Our Lord
in the most Blessed Sacrament,
may we be open to receive the Eucharist grace, the true power of God,
to join the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts
in loving and serving God and our fellow man as we were created to.