I am sure that all of us, at one moment or another, have had the horrible experience of being accused of working for the devil. These exact words may not have been thrown at you, unlike today’s gospel passage, but their meaning was clearly conveyed. And let's be honest, it was painful.
Let's get one thing straight: All those who do evil are not always working for the devil. They may simply be ignorant - not knowing any better. One rule of thumb may help out: If you are praying to the devil, then you are definitely working for the devil.
I recently took a trip to Hawaii with my family and had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Cathedral of our Lady of Peace in Honolulu. It was built back in the 1800’s and is as warm, simple and humble as the people. I was surprised to learn that St. Damien de Veuster was ordained a priest in the Cathedral in 1864, two months after arriving in Hawaii.
I was surprised to hear about the history of Catholicism in Hawaii. The first Mass was celebrated on the Hawaiian Islands in 1827. Ten years later, an ordinance rejecting the Catholic Religion was issued by the King. However, the example of humble and poor missionaries willing to live, work and eat with the people quickly won over scores of natives to the faith. This infuriated not only the King but also Protestant ministers who had come to the Islands years before. Their preaching was markedly anti-Catholic. However, they failed to convince the people for the simple fact that they refused to live with the people.
Fr. Damien lived among the people. He physically and single-handedly built chapels in remote areas so that the native people could worship frequently and peacefully. When the plague of leprosy hit the Islands, the reaction from the King was similar to that of Biblical times: those infected would need to be separated from the living. Hence, a settlement was established on one of the remote islands, Molokai, and a priest was needed to care for them.
Fr. Damien volunteered for three months and personally decided to stay there for the rest of his life. He first realized he had contracted this lethal disease when he burned his feet with hot water and did not feel it. He died five years later on April 15th, 1889. He had lived among the lepers for sixteen years and had become one. He was immediately hailed as a Saint among the people. But one person did not consider Father Damien a Saint. In fact, he considered him a devil.
Rev. C.M. Hyde, a Presbyterian Minister working in Hawaii wrote a calumnious letter almost the day after Fr. Damien died. While his grave was still fresh, this minister began throwing mud at this man’s name. Today, what is striking is not so much the content of this man’s letter, but the replies his letter generated, and one reply in particular, from a Presbyterian himself: Robert Louis Stevenson.
We should all recognize this man’s name. He is the author of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (no relation to our minister…at least not in blood relations), Kidnapped, etc. Stevenson’s face went livid when he read Hyde’s letter. He was embarrassed “that one from his own sect” would write, “from the comfort of his beautiful and spacious living quarters”, a “filthy commentary” on such an extraordinary man. This may help explain why Stevenson’s response is 10 times longer in length then Hyde’s original letter!
I wish I had the space to share with you the letters. You can find them and Google them yourself. Needless to say, the moral of the story is simple: FEAR NOT! “In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.” (Ps 17:15a) The argument, "He drives out demons by the prince of demons" is illogical. You cannot do good by collaborating with evil. As in the case of our Lord, Fr. Damien did not hestitate in helping lepers. He lived with them knowing one day he would die beside them. Very irrational and beautiful. Fr. Damien knew well the maxim: There is no priest without sacrifice and no sacrifice without a priest.
We are all members of a holy priesthood. If we want to attain the same glory as our Lord, we may, at times, have to face the same Passion and Cross as our Lord. This is the road that leads to Paradise, even from the grave!