Our Lord speaks to us and shares with us the reality of the devil interfering in our lives so many times that all too often we do not get the seriousness of his message. So frequently does He refer to the power of the fallen angels that we dismiss it out of sort, at least as it refers to our personal everyday functioning. But in doing so we gravely mislead ourselves.
Even among the devoted, those souls who think they do what the Lord prescribes and expects, there is delusion. In another instance He speaks about the time of judgment. "Many will say to me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name?' And then I will declare to them `I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness"' Matthew 7: 22, 23. To practice lawlessness is to be separated from the grace of our God. It means to sin easily enough, even while we attempt to serve the Lord, actually thinking He will overlook our disdain for him while He gladly looks upon the good we attempt to do. We forget unless we are totally serious about our Christian vocation, we end up serving "...God and mammon" Matthew 6: 24, while forgetting to "Seek first his kingship over you" Matthew 6: 33, and if we are serious about this pursuit, there will be no time to entertain simultaneously the destruction of our soul and eternal life, because "...where your treasure is, there will your heart also be" Matthew 6: 20.
In today's epistle lesson, St. Paul speaks of the "...desire of his prayer to God is ... salvation" Romans 10: 1. Instead we would like to add our own interpretation and perverted understanding, "...not according to knowledge; for, ignorant of the justice of God and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to the justice of God" Romans 10: 3.
Consequently, we do not recognize our own frailty, thinking we can overcome all temptations by ourselves and fail all too often against the power of the devil and his evil spirits. Our dismissive response so many times to the whispering of our counteracting guardian angel is precisely that of the evil spirits who took possession of the two men today, "What have we to do with you, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us... Matthew 18:29?
Because so many times "God does not punish sinners instantly, people feel it is safe to do wrong" Ecclesiastes 18: 11. But our God appeals continuously to us, "O, my people, have you not had enough of punishment? Why will you force me to whip you again and again? Must you forever rebel? From head to foot you are sick and weak and faint, covered with bruises and welts and infected wounds, not anointed and unbound" Isaiah 1: 5, 6.
The devil is real and roams the world "seeking whom he will devour" 1 Peter 5: 8. Somehow proud man thinks he is an exception. Our Lord warned Peter, "Satan has asked to sift you like wheat..." Luke 22: 31, so what chance does the ordinary believer have? We like the promises or actual pleasure he offers us in our doubtful life. So our Lord directs another warning to us, "For you are the children of your father the devil and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and a hater of truth; there is not an iota of truth in him. When he lies, it is perfectly normal; for he is the father of all lies" John 8: 37, 38.
When He fasted in the desert after his baptism, our Lord, too, was tempted. Let us take seriously his example. He was not fooled. By baptismal grace, by the strength of our Eucharistic life, we too can repel the wiles of satan. After all, our greatest advocate is the Holy Spirit, whose gifts we received in Chrismation. But they must be called upon, appropriated and made our own and used against our greatest enemy.
When we sense we are being seduced, when we feel temptation growing, we can with a heart and soul confirmed in faith, make an act of the will to be innocent. We can renounce the devil as did Jesus. His words work with us in our present day circumstances, "Satan be gone Matthew 4: 11. How much better would the souls who witnessed today's encounter have been if they followed the example of the Saviour instead of the devil! Scripture witnesses for us, "At that the devil left him and angels came and waited on him" Matthew 4: 11.