On the First Sunday of Lent we hear the account of Jesus' forty days in the desert where he was tempted by Satan. Before explaining this Gospel I would like to address a question many people have: Does the devil really exist?
Cardinal Jorge Medina, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, answered the question on January 26, 1999 when he presented the New Rite for Exorcisms of the Roman Ritual. The reporters at the Vatican Press Hall asked him concerning the doubts of many Christians about the devil's existence. He replied:
"We know there are Catholics who have not received good formation and doubt the existence of the devil, but this is an article of faith and part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Whoever says the devil does not exist is no longer a believer." (See: New Rite of Exorcism)
It's interesting that while some modern Christians doubt the devil exists, a huge number outside the Church are convinced otherwise. Perhaps they have seen evidence in their own lives. Perhaps they know something about human history.
By far the most famous book about the devil is William Peter Blatty's novel, The Exorcist. It sold over thirteen million copies and in 1973 was made into a hit movie. The inspiration for the book dated to 1949, when Blatty was at Georgetown University and read local newspaper accounts of an exorcism, involving a fourteen-year-old boy in Mount Rainer, Maryland. In 1970 the author started his research work for the novel. Ultimately it was based on an earlier case from 1928 and other historical cases dating back to the Bible.
Peter Blatty was not just trying to write a scary story about a girl possessed by the devil. He attempted something much bigger: to grapple with problem of evil. If God is good and powerful, how can there be so much suffering, cruelty and horror in our world? On the opening page of his novel Blatty lists scenes of grotesque evil - Auschwitz, Dachau, My Lai. We could add more recent ones like the Bosnian rape camps. Altho it does not solve the "problem of evil," a starting point is to recognize the existence of a personal agent who operates thru deceit and confusion.
We see how he works in today's Gospel. What Satan offers Jesus seems sweet and reasonable. To turn a few round stones in bread rolls. To get where the action is. To make a dramatic gesture. Why not? Especially to avoid that terrible matter of Roman capital punishment.
Of course Jesus saw thru the deceit. You and I are not so successful. Our duty may be crystal clear, but the flimsiest argument can get us sidetracked. "You've had a hard day. Just take a few minutes to relax." Next thing you know we've spent an evening in front of the TV or surfing the internet. How many girls have given up their virginity out of "compassion" for some guy? She reaches out for abiding affection, but instead does lasting damage to herself - and the boy she loves.
In the hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Martin Luther sums up our dilemma:
What hope do we have against such an opponent? He requires no sleep. We get weary. We easily become confused while he is completely focused. Unremitting hatred. In the second stanza Luther describes the one hope:
There's a third stanza to Mighty Fortress which, at least in Catholic churches, we do not often sing. With it I conclude my homily:
From Archives (Year C homilies):
Do Not Talk to the Devil (2013)
Who Is Like God? (2010)
More Powerful than Satan (2007)
Temptation of Spirituality (2004)
How Satan Operates (2001)
The Hidden Sin of Gluttony (1998)
Complete List of Homilies for First Sunday of Lent ("Temptation Sunday"):
Ash Wednesday homilies:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Devil has no knees, Billing Course at Providence Hospital, Ash Wednesday Earthquake)
See also: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm
The Fiery Furnace
Jesus Teaching Concerning Heaven
Some Good News on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."
Germaine Greer on Birth Control
Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)
Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church
Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?
Test Tube Offspring Want to Know Father
Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs
Call No Man Father
What is Original Sin of Sex?
Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)
Bogus Knights of Columbus Oath
Ossuary of James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus
my bulletin column
SMV Bulletin (be patient - sometimes we have problems uploading)
40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)
Q&A about Planned Parenthood
Archbishop Dolan: Letting Crisis Pregnancy Centers Do Their Work
Bill Donohue: IF ONLY PRIESTS WERE TEACHERS
my bulletin column
Parish Picture Album
(A child in Peru who needs your help)
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Seattle Men's Conference
March 2, 2013 at St. Mary of the Valley, Monroe
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