Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. A man with an unclean spirit cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed.
A few days ago, I was asked to give a talk to children preparing for their first confession. I wanted to stress the point that they would be nervous and scared, but that there was nothing to fear. I told them that there was only one person in the world that did not want them to confess their sins. I asked them, “Who do you think that is?” At that moment a mom took her hands and wrapped them over her child’s ears. One child raised his hand and said, “The devil.” I looked back at this mom who was shielding her daughter’s ears and could read her lips as she told her child, “It’s not true.”
I am all for keeping our children innocent. But what I don’t appreciate are parents that want to keep their children naïve. There is a difference. Our Lord was always innocent and never naïve. We should teach our children to never fear the devil, but to fear the Lord, for it is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10).
I know a lot of religious people that have a tendency to think that some of the devil stories in the Gospel are sort of fake. After all, where are they? Why don’t we see them anymore? Well, I have seen one, and it was in a Church.
About five years ago, while I was giving my homily at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Irving, a man suddenly jumped up from his seat and started crawling in the middle of the center aisle, towards the altar. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to say. I thought he would stop, but he didn’t. He kept crawling closer and closer to me. He went up the steps and stopped in front of the altar. I tried to understand what he was saying but I couldn’t understand a word. I went over to him, I looked at him, and the only way I can describe to you what I saw is by saying “He looked torn apart”. This man was totally broken. I whispered to him, “Stand up. You are not an animal. You are a man.” I took him by the hand and he stood up. I gave him a blessing and he became calm. He stopped shaking. At that moment, some people from the congregation helped him down and brought him to the back of the Church.
Let’s not be so naïve as to think the devil was more believable back then than today. Let’s not be so naïve to think that being holy was any easier back then than it is today. Let’s not think that being broken was different back then than it is today.
Christ’s words are more inspiring, more uplifting, and more believable than any politician’s words during a political campaign. The humanity and divinity of Christ is much more believable than any person I know. What is so amazing about the Lord? What drove people to love him or dismiss him or hate him?
He taught them as one having authority. Having authority is much more than just preaching your own doctrine or quoting a scholar. Having authority means living your life and not allowing others to live it for you. It means being coherent. That is, you live by what you preach; you are not a divided or broken. You are One. The possessed man spoke in plural. “What have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are!”
When we don’t understand something, like God or the devil or a teaching of the Church, then we tend to want to change it rather than to study it or try it.
Try something new! Be who you claim to be! Stop blaming others or making up excuses for your failures or lack of faith. Stop allowing the devil inside you (or outside of you) from taking over.
Try living the Gospel truth and then see what happens! Try being faithful to the Lord! Try being loving and honest. Try being generous without conditions! Try being Christian and holy! Try being another Christ – who is “old” and still very new! Then, and only then, will you have your children’s obedience, your family’s respect and the admiration of doubters and seekers.