While growing up, me and my siblings heard many stories about spirits, some of them about “evil spirits lurking in the dark” and in “remote places” far from houses where people live. These stories instilled fear in us and so we were afraid of straying far from home. At night while waiting to fall asleep, when I heard dogs howling, I imagined them to be seeing spirits passing by. Those were childhood fears that I gradually outgrew and now it isn’t much of a bother even if I sleep alone. Prayers helped me manage these and eventually sleeping well is already easy and second nature.
In the Gospel (Mk. 1: 21-28), a man with an unclean spirit cried out to Jesus and said,
“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!” The evil spirit recognized Jesus such that the Lord rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
In Jesus’ and as well as in present time, evil spirits manifested themselves on people in the forms of sickness, demonic possessions and the like. We can read many other stories of evil forces trying to disrupt the Lord’s ministry. Yet, today’s Scripture reading tells us of the infinite power of God, as manifested by how the Lord Jesus Christ drove out the unclean spirit. The Almighty Power of God is infinitely supreme over all of creation including evil spirits, regardless of how difficult the situation may seem. Evil creatures are real and have been around since Creation. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.” 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 and His reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.” The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”. (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Early in Christ’s public life, the devil would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from His Father. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The best that we can do is to continue preferring God over the devil, by the choices that we make every single minute, every single day. It is hard as these seduction sometimes comes in beautiful packages: fame, wealth, lust and the like. It is temporal but often difficult to resist. By our human nature, we become weak when we do it alone. We need God’s infinite power to overcome all these. We have to bring more prayer in our lives to sustain our strength and provide us the courage and fortitude to handle these challenges. We need Jesus to rebuke them by allowing God’s grace and mercy “to overshadow their evil influence”. Moses tells us in the First Reading (Dt. 18: 15-20), to listen to Him.
This Sunday is also the Feast of St. John Bosco, Priest, Father and Teacher of the Youth. In his homily today during the Concelebrated Mass at the St. John Bosco Parish Church, Makati, Most Reverend Bishop Broderick Pabillo, D.D. Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila said, referring to the youth who aren’t allowed to go out of their homes,
“…we need to have special care over them, “kailangan silang kausapin (we need to talk to them), kailangan silang i-entertain (we need to entertain them), kailanga natin si Tatay maging creative (Tatay needs to be creative), so that they will not get bored, with all these online things, and we need also to guide them in how they use electronic media. Dito na po yung guidance na ibibigay natin sa kanila (This is where our guidance to them is needed). So let us ask our Patron Saint John Bosco that we may be kept away from sickness and especially that we may be guided in how we can guide our young people during this time of the lockdown and the pandemic. Let us learn from him on his zeal in order to bring people close to the Lord in whatever situation we find ourselves in.”
The Second Reading (1 Cor. 7: 32-35) exhorts us to “adhere to the Lord without distraction”. This is the only way that we can overcome evil in this world. Thus, despite how blurred and hazy these situations may look, we need to be more prayerful and mindful of stopping the bad influence and seduction of the devil in our lives.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit grant us the gift of Fortitude, so that our souls be “strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of our earthly mission”. May this gift grant us the grace and the humility to acknowledge God’s power and authority over all Creation. May our faith and trust in God not falter despite the challenges and difficulties we face.
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 95:8)