Job 7: 1-7, 1 Cor 9: 16-23, Mark 1: 29-39
The readings for today cover two areas of extreme importance in today’s secular society: the existence of the devil and evil spirits and something that we call universalism.
In today’s Gospel St. Mark points out on a number of occasions that Jesus went about healing and casting out demons. The existence of demons, or, evil spirits is something that is generally not believed today, either by Christians or non-Christians. There are many writers and theologians who claim that the devil and demons are simply words used to describe, not an actual being or beings, but rather used as a metaphor to express evil. Even the current head of the Jesuit Order, Fr. Arturo Sosa stated in a 2019 interview that the devil is only symbolic and does not represent a real person or being. These views not only contradict the Scriptural accounts we read today but the constant teaching of the Catholic Church.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 391-395, the Church teaches that there is, in fact, a being called Satan and that the angels who followed him in rebellion against God became evil spirits through their own choice. The Gospels are simply filled with stories of Jesus casting out demons. If you think these beings aren’t at work in today’s society, just look at what happened in the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. A large group gathered to support President Trump became a violent mob that stormed the Capitol building. People were killed in this riot and there’s little doubt, the enemy was urging some of these people on to commit these violent crimes.
Thankfully, Satan does not have unlimited power. We’re told in the letter of James 4:7, “..resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Our best protection against the power of the evil one is to remain faithful practitioners of our faith, to have a life of daily prayer and to worthily receive the sacraments. We are told in Ephesians 6:12 to “Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The spiritual armour referred to is what we receive when we live as faithful, prayerful Christians and Catholics.
In the second reading, we hear St. Paul say just a little further than our reading goes today, in verse 27, “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” In one Catholic Commentary we read, “Paul does not count on his call as an Apostle nor on his preaching to assure his salvation. He must live out his call to the very end.”
There are those who profess a theory called “universalism.” In effect, this theory holds that everyone goes to heaven. It is one of the biggest and best lies of the devil. If we all go to heaven, why was Jesus crucified, why bother going to Church, why pray or why read and follow Sacred Scripture teaching? Dr. Ralph Martin, a well-known Catholic evangelist, in a recent book stated that casual indifference to the topics of heaven and hell indicate a deep spiritual blindness.
We must never presume we will go to heaven. St. Paul tells us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Scripture tells us that salvation isn’t granted all at once and then you simply coast for the rest of your life into heaven. It states rather that we must be concerned that we are living our daily lives in accordance with the teachings of Sacred Scripture and the Church. If we die in that state, then we have every hope that we will obtain eternity in heaven. Our reading from Job states: “Remember that my life is a breath.” We must use the time we have to stay focused on our goal in this life, that is, to attain eternal life with Jesus in heaven. What could possibly be more important? Deacon Tony