A Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
My mother had just taught me how to drive a car and it was the first time I had control of the wheels as she sat in the front passenger seat. I was trying to keep my anxiety in check when someone cut me off in traffic and I had to brake abruptly to avoid hitting him. I lost it and I laid on the horn with anger. My mother touched my hands and said, “Let him go. The devil comes in different forms and ways. Don’t let him take your peace away.”
The devil does indeed come to us in different ways and forms in our lives through people that we encounter and events that we experience. He comes to do one thing, “The thief comes only to steal, to slaughter and to destroy.”(Jn 10:10) We must thus look beyond the visible persons and distressing experiences in our lives through which the devil gains access into our hearts, minds and hearts. Our greatest and fiercest enemy is not human persons or bad experiences, but it is the devil who seeks any channel and opportunity to destroy all that is beautiful in our lives, deprive us of God’s purpose in our lives, and deny God the glory that is due to Him.
Jesus sends out His disciples in today’s Gospel after “giving them authority over unclean spirits.” They would surely be rejected and ignored by many, “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” Jesus once emphasized the danger that the disciples will face in this world from their audience when He said, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.”(Mt 10:16) But Jesus does not give them authority over the hearts of men and women who may oppose or persecute them. Rather, He gave them authority over demons because it will be the devil and not their human adversaries who will be their greatest enemy.
As long as the disciples enter into a deep trusting relationship with Jesus and let Him act and provide for them in their mission, they will have the power to cast out demons. Out of that trusting relationship with God, they will take nothing for the journey and not be choosy or picky about where they are to stay, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.” Because they were in relationship with Jesus, the Twelve – weak, sinful, unlearned men – did something humanly impossible, “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in constant struggle with demons today as in times past. The devil is speaking and acting in our world today through events and people who may be his conscious or unconscious instruments by their words and actions. But how we are so blinded to be focused on the human agents and the experiences without discerning the ploys of the devil to use these creatures to enter our lives, destroy our freedom and peace and bring nothing but division, hatred and conflicts in our families, Church, and communities.
The purpose of all the devil’s actions is to hinder us and move us away from any deep relationship with God in Jesus Christ because he knows that we share in Christ’ authority over him by our relationship with Jesus Christ. The authority that Jesus gives His disciples then and now over unclean spirits is a share in that same authority that Jesus Himself had over the demons. The only way that we can enjoy Christ’s authority over demons is through an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.
Because we can only exercise Christ’s authority over the devil through our lived relationship with Jesus, the devil will use any means, direct or indirect through human agents and events, to make us doubt God’s love for us, His wisdom and His power. We are hearing the devil’s lying voice when people’s words or actions or events make us doubt God’s personal and unconditional love for us. We are hearing the devil’s temptations when we are moved to question the divine wisdom and purpose in our lives because of what happens to us. We are falling for the devil’s lies when we are made to think that God lacks the power to deliver us from temporal and eternal woes.
St. Paul reminds us of the way that God has and continues to draw us into relationship with Him in and through Jesus Christ. God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,” including His own authority over demons. We have been “chosen in Christ,” “destined for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ,” “redeemed by His blood and forgiven for our sins,” so that we can exist “for the praise of the glory of His grace.” Our relationship with Christ does not dispense us from spiritual battles but brings us to participate in Christ’s own struggle and victory over the devil. As long as we are grounded on our relationship with God by His grace, we can overcome the demonic forces that come to us at every moment and faithfully fulfill the divine purpose in our world today to make His blessing available to others who may despise, reject and persecute us.
The God who brought us into living relationship with Him never ceases to draw us into that relationship with Him no matter what the past has been. The same Jesus who warned us that the devil constantly comes to us to steal, kill, and destroy the amazing benefits of Jesus’ new life in us also assures us that He too comes to us through persons and events to give us His own life-giving relationship, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Our challenge is to grow in this life, communicate this abundant life to both friends and foes by our prayers, words and actions, and to thwart the constant efforts of the devil to kill this life.
Jesus fulfils His promise of abundant life to us today by coming to us through what appears to be ordinary bread and wine in Holy Communion. Through the Eucharist, we are strengthened in our relationship with the God who “accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will.” No matter what people say or do or what we experience, we must never doubt this love-relationship with God. If we never doubt His love for us, His wise designs or His power, we will surely experience His own authority over our greatest enemies, the demons who never cease to come to us in many forms and ways.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!