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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Saturday, 25 March 2017

THE DEVIL: FLIPSIDE OF POPE POPE FRANCIS' MESSAGE OF GOD AS MERCY

LAETARE SUNDAY: At the end of this post.

Christian Faith and Demonology

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has commissioned an expert to prepare the following study, which the Congregation strongly recommends as a sure foundation for the reaffirmation of the teaching of the Magisterium on the theme: Christian Faith and Demonology.
The many forms of superstition, obsessional preoccupation with Satan and the demons, and the different kinds of worship of them or attachment to them have always been condemned by the Church (1). It would therefore be incorrect to hold that Christianity, forgetful of the universal Lordship of Christ, had at any time made Satan the privileged subject of its preaching, transforming the Good News of the Risen Lord into a message of terror. Speaking to the Christians of Antioch, Saint John Chrysostom declared: “It certainly gives us no pleasure to speak to you of the devil, but the teaching which this subject gives me the opportunity to expound is of the greatest use to you” (2). In fact it would be an unfortunate error to act as if history had already been accomplished and the Redemption had obtained all its effects, without there being any further need to conduct the combat spoken of by the New Testament and the masters of the spiritual life.

This document goes on to speak of the modern scorn about the devil's existence whhich makes even leaned people "re-interpret" Scripture in ways that do not do justice to the evidence or the texts.  It then summarises the the New Testament evidence and Jesus' own witness on the devil's existence.   It ends the Scripture section with this:

It is not surprising therefore that in Saint John’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the devil and calls him “the prince of this world” (28). Of course his action on man is interior. Nevertheless, it is impossible to see in his figure only a personification of sin and temptation. Jesus can undoubtedly recognize that to sin is to be a “slave” (29); but he does not identify with Satan himself either this slavery or the sin which is shown in it. The devil exercises over sinners only a moral influence, which is moreover measured to the welcome which the individual gives to his inspiration (30). If people carry out his desires (31) and do “his work” (32), they do so freely. Only in this sense and to this extent is Satan their “father” (33). Between him and the human person’s consciousness there is always that spiritual distance which separates his “lie” from the consent which we can give or deny to it (34), just as between Christ and ourselves there always exists a gap placed by the “truth” which he reveals and proposes and which we have to accept by faith.

This is why the Fathers of the Church, convinced from Scripture that Satan and the demons are the adversaries of the Redemption, have not failed to remind the faithful of their existence and activity.

General Doctrine

As early as the 2nd century Melito of Sardes wrote a work “On the Devil” (35), and it would be difficult to cite a single Father who has kept silent on this subject. As is to be expected, the most diligent in illustrating the devil’s action were those who illustrated God’s plan in history, notably Saint Irenaeus and Tertullian, who respectively opposed Gnostic dualism and Marcion. Later came Victorinus of Pettau, and finally Saint Augustine. Saint Irenaeus taught that the devil is an “apostate angel” (36), whom Christ, recapitulating in himself the war waged on us by this enemy, had to confront from the beginning of his ministry (37). In a broader and more forceful way Saint Augustine showed him at work in the struggle of the “two cities”, which have their origin in heaven at the time when the first creatures of God, the angels, declared themselves faithful or unfaithful to their Lord (38). In the society of sinners he saw a mystical “body” of the devil (39), and this idea recurs later in Saint Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job (40).

The majority of the Fathers, abandoning with Origen the idea of a sin of the flesh on the part of the fallen angels, saw the principle of their fall in their pride – the desire to rise above their condition, to affirm their independence, to make themselves like God. But side by side with this pride, many Fathers underlined the fallen angels’ malice towards man. For Saint Irenaeus the devil’s apostasy began when he became jealous of God’s new creature and sought to make the latter in his turn rebel against his Creator (41). According to Tertullian, Satan used the pagan mysteries to plagiarize the Sacraments instituted by Christ, in order to thwart the Lord’s plan (42). Patristic teaching therefore substantially and faithfully echoed the doctrine and directives of the New Testament.

The Liturgical Argument

As regards the liturgy, to which we have already referred in passing, it provides a special testimony, because it is the concrete expression of faith that is lived. We must not however look to it to satisfy our curiosity about the nature of the demons, their categories and their names. The liturgy contents itself with insisting upon their existence and the threat which they constitute for Christians. This is its task. Being founded upon the teaching of the New Testament, the Liturgy directly echoes this teaching when it declares that the life of the baptized is a combat, conducted with the grace of Christ and the power of his Spirit, against the world, the flesh and demonic beings (110).

Nevertheless, in her fidelity to the example of Christ, the Church considers that the admonition of the Apostle Saint Peter to “sobriety” and vigilance is still relevant (123). It is true that in our days it is a new “drunkenness” that we must beware of. But knowledge and technical power can also inebriate. Man today is proud of his discoveries and often rightly so. But in our case, is it certain that his analyses have clarified all the phenomena which characterize and reveal the presence of the devil? Do no further problems remain on this point? Have hermeneutical analysis and the study of the Fathers resolved the difficulties of all the texts? Nothing could be less certain. It is true that in times gone by there was a certain ingenuous fear of meeting some devil at the cross-roads of our thoughts. But would it be any less naive today to assert that our methods will soon say the last word on the depths of the consciousness, the meeting-place of the mysterious relationships between body and soul, between the supernatural, the preternatural and the human, between reason and revelation? For these questions have always been considered vast and complex. As far as our modern methods are concerned, they, like those of the past, have limits beyond which they cannot go. Modesty, which is also a quality of the intellect, must preserve its rightful place here and uphold us in the truth. For this virtue – while taking account of the future – here and now enables the Christian to make room for the data of revelation, in short, for faith.

Triumph over Evil

It is to faith in fact that the Apostle Saint Peter leads us back when he exhorts us to resist the devil, “strong in faith”. Faith teaches us that the reality of evil “is a living spiritual being, perverted and corrupting” (124). Faith can also give us confidence, by assuring us that the power of Satan cannot go beyond the limits set by God. Faith likewise assures us that even though the devil is able to tempt us he cannot force our consent. Above all, faith opens the heart to prayer, in which it finds its victory and its crown. It thus enables us to triumph over evil through the power of God.

It certainly remains true that the demonic reality attested to in the concrete by what we call the mystery of Evil, remains an enigma surrounding the Christian life. We scarcely know any better than the Apostles knew why the Lord permits it, nor how he makes it serve his designs. It could be however that, in our civilization obsessed with secularism that excludes the transcendent, the unexpected outbreaks of this mystery offer a meaning less alien to our understanding. They force man to look further and higher, beyond the immediate evidence. Through their menace which stops us short they enable us to grasp that there exists a beyond which has to be deciphered, and then to turn to Christ in order to hear from him the Good News of salvation graciously offered to us.

THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST
Let us refresh ourselves with what we learned at the very beginning of Lent from the Temptations of Christ.

The traditional Gospel text for the beginning of Lent is the Temptations in the Desert. Jesus has been commissioned by his Father and anointed by the Spirit at his Baptism in the Jordan to begin his public ministry, and now he goes off to the desert to be tempted by the devil. Why does he do this? Because, by seeing through and rejecting each of the three temptations, he is able to discern God’s will for him. You who are seminarians, preparing to embark on your own public ministries, by paying attention to these temptations, may well uncover how you can truly fulfil your  own vocation authentically and without distortion.

In all his tempting, the devil has but one object, to divert our attention from serving the one, true God in any meaningful way. If the devil can persuade us to serve him while believing all the time that we are serving God, all the better.   These three temptations of Christ are aimed at destroying his role as Saviour, and they will destroy our vocations too if we give them the chance.

There are three temptations, one about the stones on the desert floor, one taking place on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the third on the top of the highest mountain.



 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Jesus was hungry because he had been fasting for forty days in the desert.   This temptation is to use his powers in order to satisfy his own needs.  Before his Baptism, he worked as a carpenter to support his household.  This is a worthy motive for most people and one that Christ blessed by doing it himself.   However, his Baptism made a radical difference, even though he and his disciples were supported by those who came to listen to him.

I have known priests who, forced to choose by sheer numbers of people what necessary pastoral tasks they are going to do and  what they are going to leave undone, concentrate on those that bring in the most money.  I have known priests in parishes who never visit the sick and the dying who contribute little or nothing.  However, I am not all that innocent!  I remember being very happy when someone gave me a large stipend for a task I have fulfilled, and being disappointed after receiving little or nothing.  I know it is very easy, little by little, to lose my pastoral zeal and to celebrate Mass for the stipend and administer the sacraments for gain, at least, sometimes. What a terrible lack of faith!!   Think of the priest who works long and hard in his parish, who dies and comes before his Maker, who says, “You have had your reward.”


Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple  6“If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

This is a more exalted temptation, not the common or garden temptation to earn one’s own living, not so blatantly worldly and, in different circumstances, not so honourable.  One may even fall for this one for what seem to be all the right reasons.

Jesus is taken up to the pinnacle of the Temple.  Down below is the main market place, bustling with activity.   What would have happened if Jesus had obeyed the devil and jumped down into the market full of people?   His fame for doing wonderful things would have spread like wildfire.  It was just the right kind of publicity.  It would have attracted many people to his cause.  It would have confirmed his claim to be the messiah in a spectacular way, but he would have become a different kind of messiah. Christ would not have had to be crucified.  God would not have been revealed as kenotic Love and the kingdom that Christ came to establish through his death, resurrection and ascension would not have come into being.  What seems to be just right turns out to be quite wrong.


How often have people approached Holy Communion only because they don’t want to be the odd man out or to sustain their reputation as ‘good catholics’?   How many have striven to keep the reputation of the Catholic Church unsullied, even at the expense of justice or the protection of children?  We all try to protect our good name for the best of motives, but who of us have never done anything Christian for the sole purpose of causing people to think well of us?  Some of us may believe that giving the Church a good name is the best way to advance the cause of Christ.  By rejecting this temptation Christ is teaching us that the only way to evangelise is to discover what God wants us to do, and to do it, whatever the consequences.

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9“All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.”…

In the ancient world authority went to those who had the power to enforce it.  The “pax romana” became a nostalgic memory for people long after it had ceased to exist, but it only held sway as long as there was an army to conquer all who would disturb it.   Lined up against it was Christ’s “kingdom of God” whose only authority is that of service and whose only power is that of the Cross, as Pope Francis would say.

The trouble is that Caesar’s authority looks so much more efficient than Christ’s.   It gets things done.   What could Jesus do to conquer the world?   There was the world’s way or the way of the Cross.   How often has the Church itself fallen into this temptation!   How often do we ourselves fall: whenever we come to believe that the kingdom of God will only advance when we or some people like us are in control.  The kingdom of God advances through our humility, and our pride is the greatest obstacle to success.   Its secret is that it is God who rules, not us, and the kingdom advances only when we are in synergy with the Holy Spirit's enabling power, making our own the words of Our Lady,  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”   With regard to Russia, like Christ in his temptations we have a choice, Fatima or NATO? Prayer and penance or armed force?  Like the last three popes, I put my money on Fatima, especially as I know that there are Russians too who are praying and fasting and God hears us all; and no Russians and no western soldiers are getting killed!!


Padre Pio's Triumph over the Devil
my  source: Infallible Catholic

The devils assaulted Padre Pio almost daily. According to Padre Pio: "The name of the devil is  'I, I do, I can, I'm able to, I, I, I.' This is the devil." Padre Pio called the devil "cosaccio" (whatsit) (plural cosacci). At times he had a real name "Barbablu." "The ogre, scoundrel, evil spirit, filthy wretch, foul beast, woeful wretch, hideous faces, impure spirits, those scoundrels, wicked spirit, horrible beast, accursed beast, infamous apostate, impure apostates, howling wild beasts, malignant deceiver, prince of darkness." 

Padre Pio: "The devil wants me for himself at all costs." 

Padre Pio stated that he believed the love of God is inseparable from suffering and that suffering all things for the sake of God is the way for the soul to reach God. He felt that his soul was lost in a chaotic maze, plunged into total desolation, as if he were in the deepest pit of hell. During his period of spiritual suffering, Padre Pio was attacked by the Devil, both physically and spiritually. The Devil used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio's torments. These included apparitions as an "angel of light" and the alteration or destruction of letters to and from his spiritual directors. 
Padre Benedetto

In a letter to Padre Benedetto on June 3, 1919: "I don't have a free minute. All my time is spent in tearing my brothers from the clutches of Satan." 


The Devil appeared sometimes in the form of an ugly black cat, or as a naked young woman performing an impure dance, or as a prison-guard who would whip him, or under the appearance of Christ Crucified, his spiritual father, his Father Provincial, his guardian angel, Our Lady, or St. Francis. Other times the devil would spit in his face and torment him with deafening noises. 

Padre Agostino confirmed this when Padre Pio said: "The Devil appeared as young girls that danced naked without any clothes on, as Christ Crucified, as a young friend of the friars, as the Spiritual Father or as the Provincial Father; as Pope Pius X, a Guardian Angel, as St. Francis and as Our Lady. Now, twenty-two days have passed since Jesus allowed the devils to vent their anger on me. My Father, my whole body is bruised from the beatings that I have received to the present time by our enemies. Several times, they have even torn off my shirt so that they could strike my exposed flesh. 


Padre Agostino

In Venafro, from Padre Agostino's diary: "Starting in November 1911, I was present with Fr. Evangelista, the superior of the monastery, for a considerable number of ecstasies, and many instances of demonic oppression. Satan would appear as a nude woman dancing lewdly, as his spiritual father, as his superior, pope Pius X, his guardian angel, St. Francis, the Virgin Mary, and also as the horrible self, with an army of demonic spirits. At times there were no apparitions but he was beaten until he bled, tormented with deafening noises, covered with spit. He was able to free himself from the torments by calling on the name of Jesus."

Padre Pio: "The devil is trying to snatch me from the arms of Jesus." 

Early one morning, after everyone had fallen asleep, Padre Pio heard a knock on his door. It seemed to be Padre Agostino (his spiritual director) asking to come in. Padre Pio said, "Come in . . . why have you come . . . How did you get here?" Padre Agostino said: "God sent me. He is displeased with you." Padre Pio was stunned: "What?" said Padre Pio as he swung his legs over the bed and began to get out of bed. "No, no, no need to rise. I only came to say God does not approve of your practice of penance." Padre Pio said, "If you are truly here at God’s request, you must give me a sign. I ask you to say the name of Jesus." At that moment Agostino’s lips parted and he started to laugh; his voice changed. Padre Pio tried to reach out and touch his brown robe. The apparition vanished, leaving behind a strong smell of sulphur. Speaking about this event in a letter on July 28, 1914, Padre Pio said: "The Devil, as you know, is a great artificer of evil . . . he could deceive you by some diabolical illusion or apparition disguised as an angel of light . . . This unhappy apostate even knows how to disguise himself as a Capuchin and to act the part quite well. I beg you to believe one who has undergone an experience of this nature." 

Opening the letters from his spiritual director Padre Agostino, at times, were all blank. He would put some Holy Water on them and the writing could be seen again: "Barbablu' made it invisible so that it couldn't be read." 

August 9, 1912, in a letter to Padre Agostino: " 'Barbablu' prevents me from writing to you. Every time I try, I get a terrible headache, and the arm is paralyzed and I can't hold the pen in my hand." 

December 3, 1912, in a letter to Padre Agostino: "I received your letter on November 29. It only contained a blank page. It must have been the 'cosaccio'."

Another time Padre Pio described the demons’ reaction when he received a letter from his spiritual director: "When I received your letter recently and before I had opened it, those wretches told me to tear it up or else throw it in the fire. If I did this, they would withdraw for good and would never trouble me again. I kept silent without giving them any answer, while in my heart I despised them. Then they added: 'We want this merely as a condition for our withdrawal. In doing so you will not be showing contempt for anyone.' I replied that nothing would make me change my mind. They flung themselves upon me like so many hungry tigers, cursing me and threatening to make me pay for it. My dear Father, they kept their word! From that day onward they have beaten me every day." 

Padre Pio: "The human soul is the battlefield between God and Satan." 

In a letter to his spiritual director on December 18, 1912, Padre Pio said: "The other night the Devil appeared to me in the likeness of one of our Fathers and gave me a very strict order from the Father Provincial not to write to you any more, as it is against poverty and a serious obstacle to perfection. I confess my weakness, dear Father, for I wept bitterly, believing this to be a fact. I should never have even faintly suspected this to be one of the ogre’s snares if the angel had not revealed the fraud to me." 

In Venafro, a likely Padre Agostino entered Padre Pio's cell. ''I'm here to confess you." Suspecting something fishy, Padre Pio said: "Repeat after me 'Long Live Jesus.' The devil screamed 'No!' and disappeared."  

Padre Pio: "What comes from Satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference and apathy."  

Padre Pio’s letter to his spiritual director, October 14, 1912 states: "The Devil wants the absolute ending of all relations and communications with you. He threatens that if I obstinately refuse to pay attention to him, he will do things to me that the human mind could never conceive." 

Padre Pio also said: "If all the devils that are here were to take bodily form, they would blot out the light of the sun!"
Padre Pio's cell at San Giovanni Rotondo


At one period during his life, Padre Pio served as a spiritual director of boys at a seminary. One night a boy was awakened by scornful laughs; the noise of iron pieces being twisted around and dropping on the ground, and of chains hitting against the floor, while Padre Pio was heard to sigh over and over again, "O my Madonna!" The following morning, the boy examined the ironwork supporting the curtain around Padre Pio’s bed, and discovered all the pieces twisted. He also looked at Padre Pio and saw him "with a swollen, sick-looking eye." This story was circulated among the seminarians, who asked Padre Pio about it. Padre Pio replied and described what had transpired in order to convince the boys of the absolute necessity of prayer in the battle with the Devil. Padre Pio said: "You want to know why the devil gave me a terrific beating? It is because I, as your spiritual father, am willing to defend one of you.” Identifying the boy by name, he continued, "He was suffering a strong temptation against purity, and when he called on the Madonna, he was spiritually also calling on me for help. I rushed at once to assist him, and with the help of Our Lady’s Rosary I was successful. The boy that had been tempted slept until morning, while I went through the battle, suffered the blows, but won the fight."

Padre Pio: "Do not let the infernal beast frighten you. God will fight it with you and for you." 

A former seminarian for whom Padre Pio had been a spiritual director and confessor, wrote that he and his fellow students heard the frightening noise of iron bars banging together in Padre Pio’s room. They also heard a sound like a train traveling at high speed through a tunnel. One of the students, who became Fr. Matrice, also explained how one night he woke up because of a terrible uproar coming from the area where Padre Pio was sleeping. He described hearing "a burst of derisive laughter and the sound of iron-bars being twisted as well as of chains clamoring on the floor." 

One time, Padre Francesco was about to leave Padre Pio's cell. "Don't leave, otherwise the devils (cosacci) come." He left awhile but after a few steps away he heard a terrible noise, and came back. Padre Pio had been assaulted.

Padre Pio was in his room mainly at night. Loud thuds were heard that scared the friars. When they would go to Padre Pio’s room they would discover him "drenched in sweat, and his clothes had to be changed from head to foot." 
Bishop Andrea D'Agostino



Certain people who came to the friary did not believe the reports of such strange occurrences; they laughed at it as the product of a monk’s imagination. One time Bishop Andrea D’Agostino was a guest at the monastery. He looked at Padre Pio’s story as a fabulous, medieval tale. However, while he was eating with the friars, he was startled by a great rumbling noise above in the ceiling. He turned pale and trembled. The bishop’s assistant, who was eating in the guest room, ran into the refectory filled with fear. The bishop was so scared that he did not want to sleep alone that night. The next morning he left the monastery and never came back.

Padre Pio was attacked quite frequently by devils which were called by Padre Pio "impure fiends" and "ugly monsters." There were interior and exterior assaults, which included howls, tremors, noises, and flying objects. One incident he described to his spiritual director: "It was late at night and they began their assaults with devilish noise. Although I saw nothing at first, I understood who was producing the strange sound. Instead of getting terrified, I prepared for the battle by facing them with a sneering smile. Then they came before me under the most detestable appearances. Then to get me to abuse God’s grace, they began to treat me with kid gloves. But thank heaven I told them off good, and dealt with them according to what they were worth. When they saw their efforts go up in smoke they hurled themselves on me, threw me to the floor, and gave me terrific blows, throwing into the air pillows, books, and chairs, at the same time letting out desperate cries and uttering extremely filthy words." 

The devils to Padre Pio: "You bothers us more than Saint Michel."  "If you don't snatch souls from us we will not bother you."

In 1964, Padre Pio was assaulted by the devil who gave him a terrible blow on the spine, and he fell, and had a black eye and swollen face.

Padre Pio: "Satan reigns over the world." 


Father Gabriele Amorth

Father Gabriele Amorth, senior exorcist of Vatican City stated in an interview that Padre Pio was able to distinguish between real apparitions of Jesus, Mary and the Saints and the illusions created by the Devil by carefully analysing the state of his mind and the feelings produced in him during the apparitions. In one of Padre Pio's letters, he states that he remained patient in the midst of his trials because of his firm belief that Jesus, Mary, his Guardian Angel, St. Joseph, and St. Francis were always with him and helped him always.

Padre Pio once told a group of people that the number of devils active in the world is greater than all the people who had been alive since Adam.

Speaking about the Devil and his demons, Padre Pio revealed the mind-boggling ferocity of their devilish malice: "The ogre won’t admit defeat. He has appeared in almost every form. For the past few days, he has paid me visits along with some of his satellites armed with clubs and iron weapons and, what is worse, in their own form as devils." 

Padre Pio: "If the devil makes noise it's a very good sign. What's terrifying is his peace." 

Padre Pio revealed more of the incredible sufferings the Devil put him through: "Who knows how many times he has thrown me out of the bed and dragged me around the room? . . . The other night was one of the worst. From ten o’clock when I went to bed until five o’clock in the morning, that evil one did not stop beating me . . . I really thought that it was the last night of my life; or, if I did not die, I would go insane. At five o’clock in the morning, when the evil one left, my whole being was enveloped in such cold I was shivering from head to foot. It lasted a few hours. I was bleeding from the mouth . . ." 

On the evening of July 5, 1964, a cry for help was heard in the friary: "My brothers, help me!" It was Padre Pio asking for help. His brothers ran to help him and found Padre Pio lying on the floor, bleeding from the nose and forehead, and with a number of wounds above his right eyebrow.

One time the evil one spoke through a possessed person, and shouted: "Padre Pio, don’t snatch the souls from us and we will not molest you!" 

A spiritual son said to Padre Pio, "Father, some people deny the existence of the devil"; Padre Pio responded: "How can one doubt his existence when I see him around me all the time?" 

One time the Devil entered the confessional and pretended to make a confession. Padre Pio recalled the incredible occurrence:

"One morning, while I was confessing the men, a tall, thin man dressed in a rather refined manner and with good manners presented himself to me. When he knelt down, this stranger began to confess his sins which were of every kind against God, against his neighbor, against the moral law; they were all aberrant! One thing struck me. After my reprimanding all those accusations, using the word of God, the Teaching of the Church, and the moral teaching of the saints to back up my words, this puzzling penitent counterbalanced my words, justifying, with great ability and rare gentility, all types of sins, emptying them of all malice and trying, at the same time, to make all sinful acts appear to be normal, natural, humanly indifferent. And this did not only concern horrifying sins against Jesus, Our Lady and the Saints . . . but also sins that were morally so dirty and coarse that they reached the most nauseating levels imaginable. 

The replies that this mysterious penitent gave every now and then to my arguments, with able subtlety and with cotton-wooled malice, made a terrible impression on me. I thought to myself: 'Who is this? What world does he come from? Who is he?' And I tried to look at him carefully in the face in order to perhaps eventually read something from between the lines of his face, and at the same time I listened very carefully to his every word so that none of them would escape me and I could weigh them up in all their significance. At a certain point, by way of an interior, vivid and brilliant light, I clearly perceived who it was before me. And with a decided and urgent tone I said to him: 'Say: Live Jesus!  Live Mary!' As soon as I pronounced these most sweet and powerful names, Satan immediately disappeared in a flicker of fire, leaving behind him a suffocating stench." 

In a letter on March 2, 1917, Padre Pio said: "You must turn to God when you are assaulted by the enemy; you must hope in Him and expect everything that is good from Him. Don’t voluntarily dwell on what the enemy presents to you. Remember that he who flees wins . . ." 

Padre Pio also explained that the Devil cannot harm us spiritually unless we let him in: "The Devil is like a mad dog tied by a chain. Beyond the length of the chain he cannot catch hold of anyone. And you, therefore, keep your distance. If you get too close you will be caught. Remember, the Devil has only one door with which to enter into our soul: our will. There are no secret or hidden doors. No sin is a true sin if we have not willfully consented." 

Padre Pio said: "I don’t have a minute of free time; it is all spent releasing brethren from the grip of Satan. Blessed be God! The greatest charity is that of liberating souls captivated by Satan and winning them for Christ." 

At the end of Padre Pio’s life (at the age of 80) he was not able to even turn over by himself in bed. Padre Pio had to be lifted into and out of his chair. At times when he would be in his chair, praying the rosary, he would suddenly be thrown out of the chair and onto the ground by the Devil.

Padre Pio said: "If the Devil is making an uproar, it is an excellent sign: what is terrifying is his peace and concord with a man’s soul." 


THE DEVIL IN OUR EXPERIENCE

.Before reading on, see this video


Bishop Barron tells us that there are two ways that the devil treats us, a) in dramatic ways as he has done to some of the saints, Padre Pio, the Cure d'Ars, St John Bosco, St Seraphim of Sarov etc, as well as by diabolical possession and other manifestations, or b), undercover, by insinuating himself into situations where he can do damage without letting it be known that he is around.  The second way is by far the most common; in fact, it is the normal way we come into contact with the devil.  It is his activity in our limitations and weaknesses where he is not noticed, unless we are looking.  His various titles in Scripture are clues as to how we can discover his hidden presence in our ordinary, everyday lives.  He is nearer to us than we think, but we are safer than we think because Christ is risen!  Once we become aware of his malignant presence, we know what to do, confident that Christ's victory is ours too, through faith.

The first name is "devil" which comes from a Greek verb "to scatter", "to divide", "to separate".  Whenever we come across disunity, behind the ignorance, petty pride and egoism, lack of charity, self-interest and other moral failings and limitations that produce the disunity, the devil can be found, lurking in the shadows.

Another  name is "Satan", from a Hebrew word meaning "the accuser". The sign of the demonic is accusation. Bishop Barron asks us how often we accuse people of things, how often we judge them, how often we take part in rumour mongering.  The Desert Fathers were particularly scared of the sin of judging others.  "The same God who told us, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not judge'." is a common statement.  "Every stage in the Christian life has its sin which people at that stage find very easy to commit.  For those on the way, who strive to obey God's commandments but have not yet come to love God with their whole heart and their neighbour as themselves, to judge others is one of the easiest to fall into."  There are lots of stories of the Desert Fathers that illustrate this, and there were monks who avoided any form of authority which involves justifiable situations where judgement is needed, because they regarded themselves too open to the sin of unjustifiably judging others.  We so love to criticise others that we can justify doing so in the name of truth.  Wherever accusation breaks up or justifies unity, specially when that unity is God-given, as in marriage and the unity of Christ's body, then Satan is alive and kicking.

A connected title is "father of lies".  The devil uses our ignorance and prejudice and combine them to form untruths about our neighbour.  Where there is untruth that separates us, the Dark Power is present.   We have all suffered this.  We have all been complicit in this to some degree.  We aren't bad people, just a bit spiritually stupid, which the Devil takes advantage of.  It is sobering to become aware that we are not the only people involved and that we are working in synergy with the Devil.

Of course, working in synergy with the Devil is completely different from working in synergy with the Holy Spirit, which is what we do when we live a Christian life.  The Holy Spirit enables us to live as sons of God, sharing his divine life, together with the angels and saints.  The Devil gives us nothing positive because he has nothing positive to give: all he can do is turn our limitations from being mere expressions of our finitude, of our imperfection, into instruments of evil by becoming vehicles of his presence whose positive, created nature as an angel has been distorted by his own will into something malevolent and loathsome.

The last name for the Devil that we are going to look at is "murderer from the beginning".  In Hitler's Germany, where the consequences of the  Devil's presence became visible, most of the servants of the Reich were just ordinary people, men who loved their wives and their children, just like anyone else. They only did their jobs, leaving moral judgements to their superiors. and trying to live their home lives as though nothing was happening.  However, looking at the whole complex Nazi reality and what it did and what it wanted to do, it was an evil of staggering proportions.  It was functioning in synergy with the Devil and the evil was far greater than the evil of most of the people who participated in it; even though there were some who showed diabolical evil as individual people.

In the modern world, for all its enlightenment, its advances in human rights and its abolition of poverty, the consequences of the Devil's activity are still visible.  The "murderer from the beginning" can be seen in ISIS and in the warring sides who target hospitals and schools and who gas children, the human trafficking, in the abortion industry and in those who sell arms to unscrupulous warlords.  All these are acting in synergy with the "murderer from the beginning".  The "Scatterer" and the "father of lies" has been acting in Christian disunity, in religious hatred, in the demonising of whole races, countries, and categories of people among ordinary, decent people, in banks which used to be places of trust where a gentleman's word was his bond.
I am not demonising these people - they are ordinary, weak human beings who think they are strong and successful: I am just giving an explanation of why the fruit they produce is much more evil than they are.

please look at this tape before continuing:



The Devil enters our lives in three stages: firstly temptations come gradually, then they grow, or become habitual, often in a way that we do not notice; and then, when we have accepted it as a reality in our own lives, we then have to justify it.  When we have justified it to our own satisfaction, then is the Devil's work complete; and, from then on, there is only maintenance.   Until we justify it and cease to feel any guilt, there is always the danger that the person may repent.

Now I am going to give you a concrete example of the Devil at work.  I am not going to show you a demoniac nor a great sinner.  On the contrary, he is probably more worthy a Christian priest than I am. Nor am I going to show you a great sin.  I have no way of entering his conscience.  All that you will hear is the kind of off-the-cuff remark we all make; but, as it is about Catholics, it is the kind of thing I notice.  However, his youtube video was published as I began to write this post; and, as it is in the public domain, he is inviting public comment, which he about to have.  I haven't chosen him because he is different from me - I am Catholic and he is Orthodox - but because we are the same: I am just as liable to make the same kind of mistakes that he has made: the Devil is much closer to us ordinary folk than we realise; and he insinuates himself into our lives, tries to occupy the space left by our limitations.  Indeed, as I wrote the first paragraph of this article, I remembered a sin that I had committed and forgotten and have decided to do something about it.  Here we go!

please see this before continuing:
Starting with basics, with the three fingers by which Orthodox Christians bless themselves, he tells us that everything starts with the Holy Trinity - so far, so good. The whole faith can be summed up in the Trinity and the Incarnation in which the Word became man without ceasing to be God. That is why we cross ourselves with three fingers, the fingers denoting the Trinity and the sign of the Cross standing for the Incarnation. 

(Very good up till now. At this point, there is no need to mention Catholics; but he cannot resist it.)


"Our neighbours, the Roman Catholics, bless themselves with five fingers, with the whole hand. A symbol of the five wounds, but that is only a detail.  Roman Catholics like to over-emphasise details.   For example, they have the feast of Christ's body, they celebrate it in the Fall.  Or they overemphasise the Passion of Christ, or they over-emphasise the Redemption. The Work of Christ is not only redemption, it is far more than that.   It is about salvation and deification.  Or man-deification, an expression introduced by our new Saint Justin."

Then he goes on with his talk on the Trinity, mentioning the Prologue of St John's Gospel and a line of great Eastern Fathers of the Church. However, the above paragraph on us papists is quite a large part of his talk.  Let us take his criticism to pieces.

Firstly there is the blessing with three fingers in the East and with the whole hand in the West.  We over-emphasise details, he says.  I have never heard of Catholics who have said they bless with five fingers to commemorate the five wounds, nor have I ever heard Catholics criticise the Orthodox for blessing with three fingers.  We live and let live and are content to be different.  From where comes his antagonism that he sees two different ways of blessing as a motive for criticising and running down his neighbour?  What is his problem?

Then there is his charge that we over-emphasise redemption, there being much more to the work of Christ, namely salvation and deification.  This accusation is quite simply nonsense.  Salvation has always been as much a part of our Christian understanding as in the Orthodox Church.  "Deification" has become a normal Catholic teaching because of dialogue with the Orthodox; but it has not been simply added on to Catholic teaching, adopted from the outside, but because it is seen as a useful concept for expressing what Catholics already believed.  It has an important place in the Catholic Catechism and in the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. (in addition, see here and here)

The other criticisms, likewise, are only for being different.  We keep Corpus Christi after the Easter cycle, and they do not.  We both believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but we have different histories for the last thousand years which resulted in different emphasis.  It would be more serious to compare our Easter services in which the same faith is celebrated in different ways.  I cannot remember whether it was in Crete or Cyprus a couple of hundred years ago when the Orthodox clergy used to take part in the Blessed Sacrament procession with lighted candles.

He says we over-emphasise the Passion.  No one can accuse the modern western liturgy of doing that; but he probably knows very little about our liturgy, choosing to remember only things he can use to discredit us.  However, in the religiosidad popular you do find a great emphasis on the Passion; but beware, the poor are very close to the Spirit, and you have to delve deep to understand them and discover their grasp of Christian truth.  In history, the death of Christ took place on Friday, and his resurrection on Sunday; but, for the Church, Christ's gift of self on the Cross was glorified at the Resurrection and taken up into heaven at the Ascension, where he is now the Lamb, at the same moment, dead but standing.  Cross and Resurrection are two sides of the same coin; and you can't have one without the other. The resurrection is only Christ's "obedience unto death" transformed and glorified., just as the glory seen in the Transfiguration is only the kenotic Love of God that is his very nature that is revealed by his death on the Cross in different circumstances. In South America, Christ on the Cross is something we can imagine, and hence it is portrayed in statue and painting.  The Resurrection is above our understanding, but it is implied in the title, "Lord of Miracles", "Captive Lord", and, over the dead corpse of Christ crucified, "Lord of Life".  Hence there is nothing wrong with the East putting its emphasis on the Resurrection, and the West putting its emphasis on the Cross, just as long as no one tries to separate Cross and Resurrection or East from West.

What is the Devil's part in all this?  Here is an ordinary but zealous retired bishop who shows his dislike for Roman Catholicism, perhaps largely because he cannot imagine any form of Christianity being of much use outside the Orthodox Church.  Many Catholics feel the same way about churches and Christians outside Catholicism.  People on both sides experience the fullness of Catholicism in the Mass, because Christ is present in both Masses and he is the fullness of Catholicism.  It was the work of the "father of lies" to lead them to believe that what they experienced themselves could not be the authentic experience of the other.  Then they had to keep on justifying themselves by constantly belittling the other, enough to permit the "Scatterer" to keep them apart.

Hence, in the habitual and light weight criticisms of an ordinary, good retired bishop, these little criticisms he makes without thinking about them too much are the light-hearted throw-offs in a much more deadly and evil work of the Devil, the East-West schism.  Even in a talk saying wonderful things about the basics of Christianity, there is a whiff of sulphur in the air, and the Devil has left his calling card.

I have spoken about Christian unity because that is my subject, but the same patter emerges at whatever level of human endeavour.  Politics provides rich opportunities for the Devil.  In the Baltic states, in the horrible wars between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, in the wars in the Middle East right up to the taking of Mosul, in Ukraine, the Devil is busy insinuating himself into the weaknesses of both sides to turn weakness and limitation into evil.  Family life provides opportunities for the Devil, as does commerce.  He is ever trying to form synergies that will work for him, whatever the situation.


13 Warnings from Pope Francis on Man’s Oldest Foe, the Devil
by ChurchPOP 


Editor - "The devil is here… even in the 21st century!" - Pope Francis

So the greatest trick of the Devil is convincing people he doesn’t exist?
Pope Francis is not impressed.
Starting with his very first homily as the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has regularly reminded believers that the Devil is real, that we must be on guard, and that our only hope against him is in Jesus Christ.

Here are are 13 of Pope Francis’ most direct quotes on the matter.

1) “When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.”

First homily, 3/14/2013 – Text

2) “The Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here… even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Homily on 4/10/2014 – Text

3) “[The Devil] attacks the family so much. That demon does not love it and seeks to destroy it. […] May the Lord bless the family. May He make it strong in this crisis, in which the devil wishes to destroy it.”

Homily, 6/1/2014 – Text

4) “It is enough to open a newspaper and we see that around us there is the presence of evil, the Devil is at work. But I would like to say in a loud voice ‘God is stronger.’ Do you believe this, that God is stronger?”

General audience, 6/12/2013 – Text

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
5) “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil! Please, let us not do business with the devil! He seeks to return home, to take possession of us… Do not relativize; be vigilant! And always with Jesus!”

Homily, 11/8/2013 – Text

6) “The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”

Homily, 11/8/2013 – Text

7) “Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me… [Jesus came] to give us the freedom… [from] the enslavement the devil has over us… On this point, there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation. We must always be on guard, on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil.”

Homily, 10/11/2013 – Text

8) “The devil plants evil where there is good, trying to divide people, families and nations. But God… looks into the ‘field’ of each person with patience and mercy: he sees the dirt and the evil much better than we do, but he also sees the seeds of good and patiently awaits their germination.”

Homily, 7/20/2014 – Text


9) “The devil cannot stand seeing the sanctity of a church or the sanctity of a person, without trying to do something.”

Homily, 5/7/2014 – Text

10) “Note well how Jesus responds [to temptation]: He doesn’t dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the terrestrial Paradise. Jesus knows well that one can’t dialogue with Satan, because he is so cunning. For this reason, instead of dialoguing, as Eve did, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and to respond with the power of this Word. Let us remind ourselves of this in the moment of temptation…: not arguing with Satan, but defending ourselves with the Word of God. And this will save us.”

Angelus address, 3/9/2014 – Text

11) “We too need to guard the faith, guard it from darkness. Many times, however, it is a darkness under the guise of light. This is because the devil, as saint Paul, says, disguises himself at times as an angel of light.”

Homily, 1/6/2014 – Text

12) “Behind every rumor there is jealousy and envy. And gossip divides the community, destroys the community. Rumors are the weapons of the devil.”

Homily, 1/23/2014 – Text

13) “Let us always remember… that the Adversary wants to keep us separated from God and therefore instills disappointment in our hearts when we do not see our apostolic commitment immediately rewarded. Every day the devil sows the seeds of pessimism and bitterness in our hearts. … Let us open ourselves to the breath of the Holy Spirit, who never ceases to sow seeds of hope and confidence.”


 Speech, 6/18/2013 


GOD'S MERCY AT WORK:
THE SAVING WORK OF CHRIST THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT

If we examine the variety of flowers in a field or plants in a jungle, we are astonished by the variety of species and by the fact that all follow the same rules of botany.  The sign of the Holy Spirit's work in Nature is unity in diversity.
  Unity in diversity is also the manifestation of the Spirit's work among human beings.  Human beings, alone among God's creatures, are beings on whom God has breathed; and it is his breath that makes us human, and the same breath is a call to harmony as we find our unity in God.

To restore that harmony was the goal of Christ's death and resurrection and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.  The Devil wants to turn diversity in unity into differences at war with each other.

The Holy Spirit, expression of the Love of the Father in the Son, enters us and looks for areas of synergy. Unlike the Devil who only turns our limitations into evil by his presence, the Presence of the Spirit enables us to become Christ bearers, to share in his life through the synergy between our life and his.  As our Creator/Redeemer, he is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, as he raises up into the life of the Trinity.
One of the best descriptions of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about harmony is the Eucharistic Prayer of Reconcilation II:


It is truly right and just that we should give you thanks and praise, O God, almighty Father, for all you do in this world, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation.
Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries may join hands, and peoples seek to meet together.
By the working of your power it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect.
Therefore, as we give you ceaseless thanks with the choirs of heaven, we cry out to your majesty on earth, and without end we acclaim:Holy, Holy, Holy,
You, therefore, almighty Father, we bless through Jesus Christ your Son, who comes in your name. He himself is the Word that brings salvation, the hand you extend to sinners, the way by which your peace is offered to us. When we ourselves had turned away from you on account of our sins, you brought us back to be reconciled, O Lord, so that, converted at last to you, we might love one another through your Son, whom for our sake you handed over to death.
And now, celebrating the reconciliation Christ has brought us, we entreat you: sanctify these gifts by the outpouring of your Spirit, that they may become the Body and + Blood of your Son, whose command we fulfill when we celebrate these mysteries.
For when about to give his life to set us free, as he reclined at supper, he himself took bread into his hands, and, giving you thanks, he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT,FOR THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.
In a similar way, on that same evening, he took the chalice of blessing in his hands, confessing your mercy, and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT,FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD,THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT,WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANYFOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.
Celebrating, therefore, the memorial of the Death and Resurrection of your Son, who left us this pledge of his love, we offer you what you have bestowed on us, the Sacrifice of perfect reconciliation.
Holy Father, we humbly beseech you to accept us also, together with your Son, and in this saving banquet graciously to endow us with his very Spirit, who takes away everything that estranges us from one another.
May he make your Church a sign of unity and an instrument of your peace among all people and may he keep us in communion with N. our Pope and N. our Bishop and all the Bishops and your entire people.
Just as you have gathered us now at the table of your Son, so also bring us together, with the glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with your blessed Apostles and all the Saints, with our brothers and sisters and those of every race and tongue who have died in your friendship. Bring us to share with them the unending banquet of unity in a new heaven and a new earth, where the fullness of your peace will shine forth in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever.People:  Amen. 

THE DEVIL AND THE POPE 


The Devil has his strategy with the Church which works too often.  He cannot destroy the Church nor break its essential unity because the Church continues to exist in its essential fullness and unity wherever the Eucharist is celebrated because the Mass is always an action of the whole Church, and people are united to the Church wherever there is true faith in Christ because it is Christ in the Holy Spirit who holds the Church together; but he can do the next best thing.

The Devil presents a good case for people to believe a lie; not an out-and-out fiction which may have nothing to do with the Devil at all, but merely human beings being, in J.R. Tolkien's words, co-creators, made as they are in God's image; no, just offering people a false version of the truth, moving the truth gauge just slightly to the right or to the left.  Usually, it about other peoples' believes.   First, the "father of lies" lies; then the "Scatterer" divides, and then he scatters.  Then he gets each side to justify itself against the other and see the other in the worst possible light so that he can perpetuate the division.

We see this happening with the Pope. When we forget his awareness of the Devil's presence, he is made out to be supporting the worst kind of liberalism.  His famous reply about homosexuals, "Who am I to judge?" could mean, "Who am I to do the "Accuser's" work for him," because pointing the finger at people and accusing is exactly what the Devil (and journalists, and all of us) do.

His frequent clear statements that he believes in the teaching of the Church , that he is a son of the Church, are ignored, thus allowing them to believe the lie. Also, his friendship with Pope Benedict and their statements of agreement are also ignored.  What they fail to understand is his insistence  that once the teaching of the Church is voiced, there is still more to say.  In this post-Christian world, allowance must be made for a more general "hardness of heart" than used to be the case and the presence of the Deceiver who is very much more intelligent than those he is tempting. Hence, wherever God's mercy is active, baptised but lapsed Christians return to Christ in all kinds of irregular conditions, in so-called marriages and other unions as well.   Pastors will have seen plenty of evidence that the grace of God is already working in them, even before any kind of rectification has been made.   He will know that the Good Shepherd is ready to leave the ninety-nine sheep to search out the lost sheep in whatever hole it has fallen into or even dug for itself to fall into.   He has seen evidence of even heroic holiness in people whose marriage circumstances do not bear examination.  He knows from experience that there are many questions about how they are to be received back into the fold that never occur to someone who believes that Canon Law provides a comprehensive solution to the whole problem.  At the same time, the Pope believes that we need the Canon lawyer to keep insisting on fulfilment of the Church's law.  He has suggested that a solution may be found in the Orthodox distinction between acribia in which the traditional teaching is underlined and observed, and economia in which it is recognised that Christ himself will cross any barrier, even his own rules, in search of a soul. In Orthodox understanding, whether acribia or economia are to be followed is not up to individual conscience but to the bishops of the region; which is exactly what is happening in Germany and in some places in Africa after the Synods on the Family.  However, the Devil wants differences to be turned into evil antagonisms, which is happening, largely with the encouragement of the press and to the satisfaction of the Devil.

It is clear that the pope does not want to engage in controversy, even when he does or says things that are controversial: rather he trusts the Holy Spirit to gradually make clear to all sides the truth.  This is because the Devil loves controversy and can insinuate himself into both sides, even the "right" side.  (I am sure the Albigensians were wrong, but who inspired the Catholics to massacre them?)

There are two armies, the army of communion, of reconciliation of differences in a higher truth, which is Christ, and there is the army of lies and half-truths, of differences that have become antagonisms, of accusation and finger-pointing and death, which is the army of the Devil.  As St Ignatius Loyola would ask, "On whose side are we?"

Pope Francis is under attack, and I am sure I can detect the smell of sulphur behind it.  He is no more liberal than Benedict was a stick-in-the mud conservative: the Devil changes his tactics with the situation and starts with a misjudged understanding of the truth.
HOMILY FOR LAETARE SUNDAY by Paul, Abbot of Belmont (UK)



Lent 4 (A) 26th March 2017

            “’Lord, I believe,’ said the man, and worshipped him.”

The readings of the Lenten liturgy belong to the baptismal catechesis programme and are an important aid for us to understand the nature and depth of our own faith. The three Sunday gospel accounts come from St John: the Samaritan woman, the man born blind and the resurrection of Lazarus.

            Today’s gospel, describing how the man born blind came to sight, is the masterpiece of Johannine dramatic narrative, so carefully crafted that not a single word is wasted. ”The light of the world” motif and the reference to the pool of Siloam are linked with the feast of Tabernacles, explaining why Jesus is still in Jerusalem. The man born blind is more than an individual. St Augustine says, “This blind man stands for the human race.” He is the spokesperson for a particular kind of faith-encounter with Jesus, one you and I might well find familiar.

The Samaritan woman exemplified the obstacles encountered in coming to believe in Jesus on the first encounter. The blind man, having washed in the waters of Siloam (meaning “the one sent”, i.e. John’s designation of Jesus), exemplifies one who is enlightened on the first encounter, but comes to see who Jesus really is only later, after undergoing trials and being cast out of the synagogue. This is undoubtedly a message for Johannine Christians, who have had a similar experience, encouraging them that through their trials they have been given an opportunity to come to a much more profound faith than when they first encountered Christ. How many Christians have come to a deeper faith through rejection and persecution.

The intensifying series of questions to which the man born blind is subjected, the increasing hostility and blindness of his interrogators who eject him from the synagogue, the blind man’s growing perceptiveness about Jesus under interrogation, and his parents’ apprehensive attempt to avoid taking a stand for or against Jesus – all these are developed masterfully into a drama that illustrates how, with the coming of Jesus, those who claim to see have become blind and those who are blind come to sight. “Enlightenment” was an early Christian term for baptismal conversion and in primitive catacomb art the healing of the blind man was a symbol of baptism.


No homily can ever do justice to the word of God. All I can suggest is that we spend the rest of the week studying this gospel passage and, in the man born blind, rediscover the depths of our own faith in Jesus, the Son of Man. Only a personal encounter with Christ can open our eyes and bring us healing. Amen.
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