March 23rd, 2017: Luke 11:14-23.
We are just half-way through Lent. Today is the 20th of the 40 days. As our pilgrimage to Easter continues, the gospel readings at Mass show the opposition to Jesus mounting. Today, when Jesus heals a man previously unable to speak, some are amazed; others are critical. And some of the critics charge that Jesus is able to do such things only because he has entered into a pact with Satan. Still others find the miracle of healing unpersuasive. They demand “a sign from heaven.” All agree on one thing, however: Satan is a real person, of great power.
That is anything but modern. Most people today, even many Christians, think of Satan as just one of the many legends from the past which we enlightened moderns have discarded. We still pray, however, in the words of the one prayer which Jesus gave us, “deliver us from evil.” Here is what the Catechism says about that prayer.
“In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God.” In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the name for the Devil is diabolos. That gives us the English word which describes the Devil’s work: “diabolic.” The first part of the Greek word, dia, means “through” or “across.” Bolos is from the Greek word for “throw.” The Catechism says, therefore, “The devil (diabolos) is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.” (No. 2851) Satan is no long discarded legend. He is person of real power. Both Scripture and the Catechism call him “a murderer from the beginning … a liar and the father of lies, the deceiver of the whole world.” (No. 2852)
When we ask, in the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, to be delivered from the Evil One, “we pray as well [the Catechism says] to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with the evils that overwhelm humanity, the Church implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return. By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has ‘the keys of Death and Hades,’ who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (No. 2854)