We must always be on guard against the seduction of evil. This was central point of Pope Francis’ homily today in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta this morning. The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel, which spoke of Jesus’ response to those who doubted his power in casting out demons.
“Jesus casts out demons and them someone offers explanations to diminish the power of the Lord,” the Pope said. This attitude of reducing the role of Christ as just a mere healer, he noted, “has reached our present day.”
”There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others, say: But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness. They do not read this, no?,” the Pope said.
“It is true that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter, as if to say: All of these (people) were not possessed; they were mentally ill. No! The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”
There are several ways that Christ has given us to discern the presence of evil, the Pope went on to say, one of which is “not to follow the victory of Jesus only halfway.”
“Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me,” the Pope said.
“Jesus came to destroy the devil, to give us the freedom from the enslavement the devil has over us. And this is not exaggerating. On this point, there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation; eternal salvation of us all.”
“There is criteria for watchfulness. We must always be on guard, on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil.”
Pope Francis called on the faithful to reflect on whether they guard their hearts, feelings, graces and presence of the Holy Spirit or “do I let go, feeling secure, believing that all is going well.”
“But if you do not guard yourself, he who is stronger than you will come. But if someone stronger comes and overcomes, he takes away the weapons in which one trusted, and he shall divide the spoil. Vigilance!,” the Pope exclaimed.
“Three criteria! Do not confuse the truth. Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There are no attitudes in the middle. Third criterion: vigilance over our hearts because the devil is astute. He is never cast out forever. It will only be so on the last day.”
Drawing an example from another Gospel, the Holy Father stressed the importance of vigilance, especially in times when an impure spirit returns to where he came from with seven spirits worse than he.
“St. Peter would say: It is like a fierce lion that circles us. It is like that. ’But, Father, you’re a little ancient. You are frightening us with these things.’ No, not me! It is the Gospel! And these are not lies: it is the Word of the Lord!,” the Pope said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed for the grace “to take these things seriously.”
“He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil! Please, let us not do business with the devil! He seeks to return home, to take possession of us. Do not relativize; be vigilant! And always with Jesus!,” the Pope exclaimed.