February 26, 2009
Today, it has become somewhat fashionable either to deny or to ignore the existence of the devil. Yet, we face more and more the devastating reality of evil in our world. The constant wars and the countless deaths of innocent civilians, including children caught in the crossfire; the breakdown in family life; the rejection of God’s design for marriage; the economic crisis casting its ugly shadow across every nation and leaving families without homes and willing workers without jobs: these are just a few of the evils that confront us.
Our money has lost some its value. But more telling is the devaluation of life itself. Our society routinely ignores the dignity of the human person as created by God and destined from the first moment of existence for eternal life. All of this gives strong witness to the presence of the Evil One at work in our world. Satan continually tempts us and we sin. We are responsible for the injustice, the hatred and the violence of our day. The scent of brimstone rises from the sins we commit!
Ultimately, we must take responsibility for our own sins. Satan may tempt us. But when we sin, we do so freely. In truth “from within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within” (Mk 7:22-23). Nonetheless, the Christian who honestly faces his or her own sins never despairs.
The Gospel tradition portrays Jesus right from his Baptism in a struggle with the devil. In a saying that comes not merely from the pen of the evangelists, but the lips of Jesus himself, Jesus identifies himself as the Stronger One who comes to despoil Satan of his plunder. He comes to usher us into the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 11:17-22). Jesus touches the lives of people whom he meets with the liberating power of God. He frees them from the grip of evil and restores them to wholeness. He does the same for us today.
In the last petition of the prayer Jesus gave us to pray, he taught us to say, “Deliver us from the Evil One” (Mt 6:13). This is a prayer never said in vain. God delivers us from evil through the Paschal Mystery. Christ takes away our sins and restores us to God’s friendship. Christ makes us sharers in his Paschal Mystery through the ministry of reconciliation which he has entrusted to the Church (cf. 2 Cor 5:19-21), most especially in the great Sacrament of Reconciliation (cf. Jn 20:21-23).
When we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we come to Christ. He is waiting to release us from the slavery of sin. By confessing all our sins honestly and humbly, the Lord, present through the gift of his priesthood, forgives all of them, great and small alike. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord draws us from the evils of this world into the peace of God’s own life.
During the Holy Season of Lent this year, as we listen to Jesus’ words: “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:16), I urge every Catholic, young and old, to come to confession in preparation for Easter. Every Catholic Church in the Diocese of Paterson will have a priest available for Confession each Monday in March from 7: 00 P.M. to 8: 30 P.M. Confession is that important!
Come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Come individually. Come with your family so that all the members of your family can receive this wonderful sacrament. If you are uncomfortable going to your own church for this sacrament, then go to any other church throughout the Diocese of Paterson. Receive the great gift of forgiveness that Christ gives through the ministry of his Church. As the great Apostle Paul reminds us, “
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). When our hearts are healed of evil, we will know the peace and joy of God’s Kingdom and so will our world.