Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, July 9, 2017
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The Reality of Evil Spirits

Epistle: Romans 10:1-10  
Gospel: Matthew 8:28 - 9:1  

I told this story of an event in my life once before, but I hope you won’t mind if I tell it again today. I went for several years to a small Catholic college in Ohio. One day I was sitting in my dorm room and suddenly, for no apparent reason, I felt this great presence of evil in the room. After a few minutes it never wavered and I started to change from being surprised to being afraid. Nothing seen, or heard or smelt, but this difficult to describe sense that an evil being was close to me. I decided it would be smart to go to the chapel that was in the dormitory building. As I walked down the halls towards the chapel I had the clear impression that this evil being was following me down the hallways like some invisible black cloud of danger just waiting for a chance to overwhelm me.

I was getting a little panicky by the time I got to the chapel and I started to pray. It seemed as though the evil entity had followed me into the chapel and that raised my level of concern to great heights. What if even the sanctity of the chapel could not protect me? But then, bit by bit, the invisible black cloud seemed to slowly disappear. So I did wonder if maybe I was having some sort of psychological problem, but I knew I had taken all my medications for that day. It wasn’t a psychological event, but a spiritual reality. From that day on I never had any reason to doubt the reality of evil spirits active in this world. I have never had a similar experience since that day. But one such experience is enough to last a lifetime.

The last petition of the “Our Father” asks the Lord God to “deliver us from evil.” Most people think this means that we are asking God to deliver us from evil in general, and that is not wrong. But before the idea of evil in general, this petition, in the first place, is asking God to deliver us from the Evil One, from Satan, as the Catechism of the Church teaches us. Quoting Scripture it reminds us that Satan is “a murderer from the beginning…a liar and the father of lies…the deceiver of the world.” As we look around at society today it is not difficult to see how many people are victims of lies and deceits. When your driver’s license can state that you do not know if you are male or female, how far have we moved down the road of lies and deceptions? When abortion is considered a therapeutic part of women’s health care, when helping a person commit suicide is called an act of compassion, when sexual relations are considered a form of recreation—without the creation—and when the words “safe sex” are used as if they represent a scientific truth, the Father of Lies must be well pleased.

Satan and his agents pervert the truth, fill minds with doubts, pessimism, bad and hateful thoughts. They try to convince us we will be secure if we only follow our own path and choose material goods and pleasures over spiritual goods and self-control. The fallen angels hope to lead us into doubts and despair so that we will give up on God and neglect to ask for His grace.

Of course this is not to say that every evil deed done in the world is initiated by Satan. We do not always need his help to do wrong. We are capable people. But neither should we forget that he is active and present and working in this world, so that he never takes us by surprise.

Satan and his companions are a true and real force for destruction and degradation in this life. At baptism I ask the candidate, or his parents, three times, “Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride?” But we, all of us, need to reject him not only at baptism but every day of our lives as well. And we can do that, without giving undue attention to him. When we say the Lord’s Prayer we should give a bit of attention to those final words, and that last petition of the prayer “but deliver us from evil…ale izbavi nas vid lukavoho…libranos del mal.”

Our fight for goodness, truth, beauty, and holiness, whether on the part of the whole Church, or whether a part of our own daily, individual struggles, is not only against the evil done by those with flesh and blood, but also, as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, against “principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against spirits of wickedness in high places.”

We may not need exorcisms like the two men in today’s gospel, and we do not need to give Satan an undue amount of attention, but let us not ignore him, nor forget to ask the Lord to protect us from his evil suggestions and every temptation. Let us ask our Lord to lead us not into temptation, but to deliver us from the Evil One. Amen.