Ordinary Time - Week 04b

The Slavery of sin

(From Conversation with God, Fernandez Carvajal)

The Gospel for this Sunday's Mass tells us about the cure of a man possessed by the devil. The name Belial or Beelzebub which we find in Scripture means unclean spirit. This victory over the unclean spirit is yet another proof of the coming of the Messiah, who arrives at length to free men from their most dreaded slavery: their slavery to the devil and to sin.

This tormented man from Capharnaum cried out, What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God. And Jesus strictly commanded him, Be silent and come out of him! And they were all amazed.

John Paul II teaches that it is possible, in certain cases, that the evil spirit manages to exercise his influence not only on material things, but also on a man's body, which is why we can speak of possession by the devil. It is not always easy to discern how much of the preternatural there is in these cases. The Church does not favour or submit easily to a tendency to attribute many happenings to the direct intervention of the devil. But in principle we cannot deny that in his determination to cause harm and to lead us to evil, Satan can resort to these extremes in order to assert his superiority. Diabolical possession generally appears in the Gospels accompanied by pathological signs like epilepsy, dumbness, deafness. The possessed frequently lose their dominion over themselves, their movements and their words. On some occasions they are possessed, behaving as instruments of the devil. Thus the miracles that Our Lord performed are a sign of the coming of God's kingdom and the casting out of the devil from every end of that kingdom. Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out. When the seventy-two disciples return, filled with joy at the results of their apostolic mission, they say to Jesus, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! And the Master answers them, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. From the time Christ comes, the devil has to fight a rearguard action even though he has great power and his presence becomes stronger in proportion as man and society separate themselves from God. Through mortal sin many men become subject to the slavery of the devil. They separate themselves from the kingdom of God only to enter the kingdom of darkness, of evil. In one degree or another they become instruments of evil in the world and are subjected to the worst of tyrannies. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The devil's dominion can take on other forms of more nearly normal and less striking appearance.

We have to remain on the watch, so as to discern and reject the wiles of the tempter, who does not relax in his determination to harm us. He knows that as a result of original sin we have remained prone to evil, vulnerable to our passions and open to the assaults of concupiscence and of the devil: we were sold like slaves to sin. The whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness. Man finds that he is unable of himself to overcome the assaults of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though he were bound in chains. We must then give its full meaning to the last of the petitions that Christ taught us in the Our Father: deliver us from evil.