First Reading: Acts 20:28-38
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 67(68):29-30,33-36
Gospel Reading: John 17:11-19
MAY THE GOOD LORD CONTINUE TO PROTECT US FROM THE EVIL ONE
Satan is real! The reality of evil in our world is a truth of faith. Apart from the experiences of some persons with evil, exorcists or anyone who has assisted in an exorcism can well affirm Satan’s reality and his deep hatred for humanity and all that pertains to God. It is unfortunate that enlightenment thinkers endeavour to push the figure of the devil out of Christian consciousness as being a product of the fantasy of the Middle Ages. Thus, it is necessary to reiterate the true, Catholic, and biblical teaching on satan and demons, that satan is not merely a symbol or an idea. He is not the “personification of evil;” he is a person, an individual creature, a fallen angelic being (as are all demons). Scripture uses personal pronouns in referring to satan and demons (e.g., he, him, they). The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that Satan is an existing creature, a fallen angel who is envious of us and is a murderer from the beginning. The reality of satan and what he is capable of doing led to the statements/prayers of our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul in today’s readings.
Beginning with today’s gospel reading, Jesus prays to the Father to protect his disciples from the influence of satan. Part of Jesus’ Priestly Prayer for this disciples reads: “I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this phrase better, viz: “The last petition to our Father is also included in Jesus’ prayer: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one (…) In this petition, evil is not an abstraction but refers to a person, satan, the evil one, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.” (CCC #2850-2851). Jesus knew that evil would always be a threat to the lives of his disciples and to the truth of the gospel and that his disciples needed to be protected from the power of evil; and as such, he took evil seriously. In other words, Christ knows that the devil is “a murderer from the beginning (…) a liar and the father of lies; the deceiver of the whole world” (cf. Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9, CCC # 2852); as such, he prayed for his disciples to be protected and delivered from the power of the evil one.
Similarly, Paul in today’s first reading knew what the devil was capable of doing; as such, before leaving the Church he ‘established’ at Ephesus, he exhorted them saying: “Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know quite well that when I have gone, fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. Even from your own ranks, there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them. So be on your guard, remembering how night and day for three years I never failed to keep you right, shedding tears over each one of you (…) When he had finished speaking he knelt down with them all and prayed.”
Dear friends in Christ, insofar as we are still in the world, we will all be put to the test by the evil one – face spiritual challenges, persecutions and trials, etc., on account of being a follower of Christ. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be overly preoccupied with these evils but remain firm in the grace of Christ, because today’s gospel reading reminds us that we have the assurance of Jesus’ prayer for us and of His supportive presence as the Good Shepherd who protects His flock from harm, through the ‘Holy Spirit that has been poured into our hearts’ (Rom. 5:5). Hence, ‘where sin increased, grace abounds all the more.’ (Rom. 5:20).
This time of the Church’s liturgical year calls us to build and strengthen our intimacy with the Holy Spirit. He has the power to deliver us from every evil and grant us peace. Therefore, no matter the situation you pass through at this moment, take courage for Christ has conquered the world. While we take evil seriously, we never allow its presence to make us despondent because we know that the light of the risen Lord’s presence will never be overcome by the power of darkness.
Above all, I pray for you this day, that through the Holy Spirit that Christ promised us at Pentecost, may you be delivered and protected always from the power and influence of the evil one. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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