Emmitsburg Council of Churches

"Vatican Confronts Shortage of Exorcists"

Father John J. Lombardi

The above description was a Sun headline (Feb. 18, '05) which my parents showed me recently. Reply to article: There's no shortage of evil in the world.

Anyway, the article detailed how the study of exorcism has changed over the centuries (it grew more psychological, perhaps overly so, to distinguish from true, demonic possession); how the Vatican is calling for more exorcists. "The reemergence is due in part to the current pope's belief that Satan is a real presence in daily life that must be battled." Who can argue with that? Are you choosing? God's Order or Devilish Disorder?

The following are some reflections on Evil in our world.

Do you remember, decades ago, the insecticide DDT, which was used to preserve fruits and vegetables from disease and insects but actually hurt and killed people? DDT was a kind of disguised death. The Devil is like that. He disguises his evil within temptations which we humans choose thinking it good. Actually it is poisonous-and disguised. The Devil is like DDT- the Devil Disguises Temptations. He promises good but delivers death. He usually doesn't come around with pitched fork and fiery body, announcing himself as evil, but comes under stealth and disguise. Evil is that way.

Paul Harvey, who hosted the radio program, "And You Know The Rest of the Story," once said his most requested show was on how Devil is disbelieved today, yet has infiltrated our families, government and is wreaking havoc-under disguise.

What does the Catholic Church teach us about Satan? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, 'Satan' or the 'devil'. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God…Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This 'fall consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God. Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls 'a murderer from the beginning,' who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from His Father" (#394). Here are some comments on the italicized parts: Seductive voice: Satan may try to seduce us thru apparently good or partially attractive choices and actions, but, underneath, they are evil. For instance, contraception may seem right for marital intimacy but is in fact a separation from God's order. Likewise, we may use alcohol and prescription drugs, but we may abuse them, too. The Devil will try to allure us by subtle seductions. Rejected God: God apparently gave this Angel of Light the most powerful glory of the angels, and yet the Evil One rejected this. Ask: Have you rejected God and His graces in favor of something allegedly better--your own path and plan? How do you reject God by choosing sins-pride, anger, gluttony, avarice lust, envy, sloth? Do you love your sins more than God?.. Divert us from mission-Satan tempted Adam and Eve with an alternative plan-"I will make you gods," versus the godly-order The Lord had already given them. We will all be tempted to reject God-thru excessive doubts, despair and wrongful choices, thru choosing alien philosophies and ideologies counter to Jesus. Satan wants to turn us away from God. Did you notice a recent New York Times article on psychiatry…and darkness? .It seems more psychiatrists are using the "E-word"-evil. More therapists are not afraid to say there are evil people in the world today. The "metaphysical correctness" of not discussing evil is being done away with-kinda' sorta'. The American Heritage Dictionary defines evil as: "morally bad or wrong, wicked."

Weeks ago I encountered a young lady in Frederick hospital Emergency Room-she was dressed in all black, and had clinking chains attached to her wrists slinking down to her slacks and waist. I subtly noticed a kind of Devil-logo on her horned hat. I don't know for sure about her, but some people are following the Devil today…

Today, however, many do not believe in Satan. More specifically, some may not believe in a supernatural, individual being that is totally evil. People may believe in evil-after all, there's the Holocaust, the history of African slaves, and the 4,000 abortions every day. But many who valiantly oppose these causes do not believe in an evil spirit who promotes such things. Why? Perhaps because of…Modernity-which basically says: "look how far we've progressed from the stone age, from 'superstition' and such. We can't go back to the stone ages." The Devil, in this view, is "old fashioned". Technology-we can not only send men to the Moon but we can also do in pre-born heart surgery on babies to make them better-thus evil and/or Satan can seemingly be "explained away' or "blotted out" by our terrific technology. Human psychology-we realize how fallen most people are and how capable a human being, is of bad actions, which by nature and nurture affects-and so, evil, in this worldview, is unneeded.

Amidst all this, remember Our Lord's words: "A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came that you might have life, and life abundantly" (Jn. 10:10). St Paul counsels: "Beware, your adversary the Devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (I Pt 5:8). Yes, beware.

In case you haven't noticed, the Purpose of this Bulletin is to help you recognize evil, the Devil, but, also, to recognize that God's Grace helps us to overcome the Devil and any evil, and that God's Order is ever more beautiful and pleasing than any false, fleeting dis-order the Devil can deliver.

The Devil appeared in our First and Gospel Readings, the First Sunday of Lent: the Evil One tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden. Even though Adam and Eve were totally harmonious with one another, God and Nature, they still assented to be tempted. So, now, ask: how am I being tempted by power and rebellion against God, false or unneeded knowledge and fallacious ideas of freedom? …we can either choose God's order or the Devils' disorder. From the Gospel, we may learn- If he tempted Jesus He will tempt you

Diabolos means "to throw across". The Devil will try to throw himself, thru any disguised temptation-remember 'DDT'? -- across God's order and our relationship with God-to stop or slow us on our holy path. We can see in the Bible that the Devil is opposed to God's rule. We see this in Gn 2. He exercises a kind of dominion in this present sinful world (I Jn 5: 19). He tempts people to sin- Mt 16:23. He wants people to worship him-Mt 4:9. He persecutes the Church- Rev 2:10. It seems the Devil is all around.

Isn't there, then, an Irony today: So many believe in angels- via TV shows, new age mystique, cute guardian angel statues, and yet so few believe in the most powerful angel-Satan.

We can see proof of his existence in his powerful dis-order disguised in the following examples. These are the complete opposite of what God has planned and commanded. Anti-God: opposition to prayer in the public marketplace; the neglect or rejection of the Ten Commandments; the fear of public spirituality and religion. A wrongful, inept , and almost completely opposite interpretation of God, religion and public life prevails thru so-called separation of religion and state which our Founding Fathers never envisioned; the saying was, in fact, to keep religion intact!…Family- alternatives to the so-called boring, fifties-ish stereotypical mom and dad and children, are offered, such as same sex unions, homsexualist couples adopting babies, and the state and various internationalist groups attempting to re-define the family. Remember: as goes the family so goes the culture. Sexuality-Fr Zylla, seminary professor called internet pornography "modern day Devil." Sodomy and other aberrations of sexuality, along with contraception are normalized, even promoted…Culture of Death euthanasia and abortion are legislated and performed regularly…Biomedical chaos -certain persons are tempted to create humans (via unproven stem cell research) for sake of helping others and then destroying the nascent creations. Drugs-the illegal, pervasive killing of mind, body and social/familial relationships. Anyone in an addiction knows, as an addict recently said to me, the Devil is real.

But, in the Gospel Reading (Mt. 4:1-11) we realize: by fasting, prayer and relying on God-and completely, irrevocably challenging the Devil, we can overcome him and his evil. This is the purpose of Jesus and the Gospel accounts--. We know God can overcome him, but can you-by following God's Path? The Gospel shows us that the God-man Jesus Christ overcame Him by trust in God-the-Father and the Grace of God.

The Catechism also states: "…Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His Kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries-of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature…it is a great mystery that Providence should permit diabolical activity, but we know that everything works for good with those who love Him'" (#395). Comments: Cause grave injuries: he may partially take over our will, the "wanting-power" of a person, so much so that a drug addict, pornographer, or liar (or…other) is enslaved to the sins and evils thereof, seemingly rendered powerless. This is the worst possible position for a disciple-to know wrong and evil and not be able to overcome it. Our Lord thus says: "Every one who sins is a slave to sin" (Jn. 8:34). St Paul says: "The good I want to do I do not do; the evil I do not want I do" (Rm. 7:19).

Satan is, unfortunately, a sign of the supernatural in our world today. Darkness exists and also threatens disciples. We use the word "diabolical' to describe someone or something of excessive evil or darkness. But we must avoid excessive "dualities"-have we gone from one extreme from emphasizing the Devil too much ("the Devil made me do it"-and thus reducing human responsibility) to the other extreme, which says there is no Devil, only man's bad choices? Let us remember-"The Light shines in darkness and the darkness overcometh it not" (Jn. 1:5).

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi