Category Archives: Angels

Speak of the devil

4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year B
28 Jan 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The reading we’ve just heard is taken from the first chapter in Mark’s Gospel and already we have a second encounter between Jesus and the devil; the first being in the wilderness after Jesus was baptised by John.

The story of Christ’s life and ministry simply cannot be told without referring to the devil. The Apostle John, in his First Letter (3:8), sums up Jesus’ mission in these words: “Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.”

The devil, the power of evil, Satan is not a subject that is discussed often in our modern world but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Perhaps it just illustrates that we live in a world in which the power of evil is enjoying some success in encouraging our egos to believe that we know what’s best for us and keeping God and God’s commandments at a safe distance from our hearts and conscience.

Perhaps the current state of world disorder, conflict, climate change, poverty and inequality are a reflection of our world’s hell-bent progress.

So what does the Church believe about the devil and evil?

A starting point would be an understanding of the Church as the Communion of Saints.
During his homily at the Confirmation Mass at St Michael’s on the Feast of All Saints in November last year, the Archbishop asked the young adults who were to be Confirmed what they understood about the Communion of Saints.

When we recite the Apostles Creed, we profess that we believe in the Communion of Saints but do we know what that means? The Confirmandee were a little uncertain in their reply and I think their sponsors were grateful and relieved that he didn’t ask them to answer the question.

The Communion of Saints refers to the unity that exists between all the members of the Church:
– The Saints in heaven
– All the believers living on earth and
– The souls in purgatory, preparing for sainthood

This communion of saints is most fully expressed and experienced in the Mass – especially at the Consecration and at Holy Communion. In those moments, heaven and earth are united. The saints, those in purgatory and we the believers are intimately connected and united at Mass because the power of Christ binds us together.

Shortly, when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we could reflect on how we are, in that splendid moment, in union with the whole church and particularly with those we have loved who have died.

We, the believers on earth, are called the Church Militant. The word militant isn’t used in the sense that we’re at war with other religions or nationalities; we’re at war spiritually against sin and Satan. The spiritual battle is for our souls and our weapons are the grace and the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are the warriors against evil; soldiers of Christ.

The fight for our souls is relentless. Victories over temptation and sin are often short lived and the battle soon resumes, frequently with increased intensity. St Peter in his First Letter (5:8) says: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour.”

In my own life I’ve found that often following an experience when I’ve felt really close to God, soon afterwards I’m floundering in spiritual apathy and have had to fight hard to regain the ground I thought I’d won.

Lent is just over 2 weeks away and offers us a concentrated time of renewed discipline and hopefully progress in the battle.
One way to recognise evil is to see it as the direct opposite or lack of everything we know about God and our calling to love God and our neighbour.

So as God is love, evil is hatred and indifference
As God is pure, evil is impure; contaminated
As God is unchangeable, evil is mercurial
As God is righteous, evil is dishonest and corrupt
As God is truth, evil is lies and deceit
As God is wisdom, evil is foolishness; reckless and rash
As God is holy, evil is sinful
As God is generous, evil is greedy and selfish
As God is tolerant, evil is prejudiced and bigoted
As God is compassionate, evil is impervious and uncaring
As God is merciful, etc, etc

A lesson we could take from the Gospel reading is to stay close to Jesus. The objective of evil is to separate us from God. The man possessed by the unclean spirit in the synagogue was set free when the evil spirit encountered Jesus.

We stay close to Jesus through prayer and the Sacraments; the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
There is a long tradition in the Church of praying to our guardian angels every day to protect and guide us; a tradition that goes back over 1000 years.

One modern translation of an ancient prayer goes like this:
Angel sent by God to guide me,
Be my light and walk beside me,
Be my guardian and protect me,
On the paths of life direct me.
Let me finish with a quote from Blessed Cardinal Newman’s poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’.

The departed soul of Gerontius is met by his guardian angel who greets him with these words:

My work is done
My task is o’er,
And so I come
Taking it home
For the crown is won
Alleluia
For evermore.

My Father gave
In charge to me
This child of earth
E’en from its birth
To serve and save.
Alleluia,
And saved is he.

This child of clay
To me was given,
To rear and train
By sorrow and pain
In the narrow way,
Alleluia,
From earth to heaven.

As we continue now with this Mass, surrounded by many angels and in communion with the whole church, let’s renew our commitment to being courageous soldiers of Christ, no matter how tough the battle may get.

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The battle for our souls

Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
2 October 2016
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

St Michael is mentioned by name five times in Scripture: three times in the Book of Daniel in the OT and twice in the NT in the Letter from Jude and the Book of Revelation to John.

Following these biblical references Christian tradition believes thatSt.Michael has four responsibilities:

And so it is that in art and sculpture St Michael is usually depicted either killing the dragon representing the defeated figure of Satan or holding a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed – though this is much less common than St Michael the protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.

The dichotomy of good and evil has challenged the minds of great thinkers, philosophers, scientists and theologians from the beginning of recorded time and there are many divergent points of view and theories. But on one thing everyone agrees. Evil is real.

In our Christian worldview, evil is any action, thought or attitude that is contrary to the character or will of God. Evil shows itself through deviation from what we believe to be the goodness of God.

St Thomas Aquinas defines evil as the absence of good.

We are engaged continuously in the fight of good against evil;light against the powers of darkness; spiritual warfare.

It’s a difficult and constant struggle. St Paul writes about this in his letter to the Romansin chapters 7& 8.Paraphrasing his words he writes “For even though the desire to do good is in meI do the evil I do not want to do it.….. Who will recue me from this mortal body? ….The answer, thank God, is that Jesus can and does……. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!”

The most potent weapons of war we have against the devil are in easy reach. There’s prayer as a conscious way of rejecting the seduction of temptation to satisfy our anger, frustrations and selfish desires. We have the grace of the Sacraments, and particularly the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. And we’re armed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

I find that reflecting on the seven deadly sins is a good way to check myown battle status.

The first deadly sin is pride which makes us believe that we’re better than other people. Are we not inclined sometimes to judge people of other races or religionsor lifestyles of which we disagree or disapprove?We use derogatory phrases like “you can’t trust the Arabs …or the Chinese ….or the Blacks ….or the Whites ….or homosexuals, or Muslims or Jews, or the French, etc., etc.”

We forget that every human being, of every shape, size and colour, nationality and religion, abled and disabled alike, is a beloved son or daughter of God.We insult God when we berate any one of his beloved.

Envy is another deadly sin. Perhaps there are times when we resent others who have more money, talent, beauty, friends, personalityand so on than we do.May even resent those who are happier or more joyful than we are.

The next is lust which presents enormous challenges throughout our lives. Lust is the abuse of the gift of our sexuality. It’s normal, healthy and essential that we find other people attractive. Without that attraction we’d not be able to enjoy personalrelationships. All relationships are dependent on the gift of our sexuality; that includes parents, siblings, spouses, friends, family and lovers. It’s when we image or treat others, in fantasy or reality, as mere objects to serve our pleasure that we’re playing with fire and courting the deadly sin of lust.

And then there’s anger. I think being a parent teaches us much about the futility of anger. Anger is a normal human response over which we sometimes have little control. But we can control what we do after we’ve become angry. Yearning for revenge or an opportunity to get even or thoughts of hate or a desire to see someone suffer,are all serious sins of anger.

Gluttony is next and most of us have probably fallen victim to this at one time or another. Gluttony is choosing to over-consume; this could be food or drink. Both are good for us in moderation.But over eating or drinking to the point of drunkenness is gluttony. Legitimate eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, aren’t gluttony. They’re medical conditions and require treatment and care.

Greedis the selfish desire for more, more and still more; often prioritising material wealth and possessions ahead of nurturing our relationship with God and our family. I’m reminded of a quote from Warren Buffet, the American multi-billionaire and one of the wealthiest people on earth who when asked how much is enough replied “When I have just a little more than I have now.”

The last deadly sin is sloth which is laziness – particularly when it concerns prayer and spiritual life. Sloth is an aversion to work –physical, mental and spiritual and often breeds indifference which impedesjoy and appreciation in every aspect of our lives.

If we’re not vigilant we easily fall into habits and behaviours that are contrary to God’s commandments of love.

We are engaged in a furious fight for our souls.

Quoting from the First Letter of Peter (1 Peter 5:8) “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Jesus has won the war but we each need to choose for ourselves to win the daily battle for our souls.

We implore the Holy Archangel Michael “St Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protector against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”