Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Romans 8:38

Anon wrote the following: “I think this whole topic (of “evil is all around us”) begs the question about the origins of evil- where does it come from? As all good originates from God, does all evil originate from Satan? If we have free will and choose sin, where does Satan factor in to the equation? One topic I’ve never addressed, and never really wanted to learn about before, is the concept of Satan among us. Maybe it’s juvenile, but it freaks me out. I knew a priest a while ago (he’s since died), who was thought to have had “battles” with Satan. I was at dinner with him one night, and one of the hosts asked a question about the rumors of sounds coming from his room at the rectory, and I promptly excused myself before he could answer. The idea that there is evil in the world, and even the idea that I have perpetuated some of it is something I can deal with. The idea that Satan may have been at work when I did any of those things really disturbs me. The idea of Satan as a real physical manifestation in anyway bothers me beyond words.”

I commented on this in my homily on the first Sunday of Lent last year and have included excerpts from it below. I spoke about a priest who did battles with the Devil in the 19th century in France as well as the origin of evil (free will). For me, it would probably be scary to have a confrontation with the Devil but I would be internally psyched! If the Devil ever attacks me outwardly, it would mean that he is threatened by my ministry. It sounds scary about the priest that you mentioned, Anon, but it’s a great statement about how powerful a priest he was, by the Grace of God. And, please keep in mind what St. Paul says in Romans 8:38: “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities…nor any power…will be able to come between us and the love of God known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

“In a rare outward appearance, the Devil tried to disrupt St. John Vianney’s ministry of healing. Many nights, he would attack Fr. Vianney; people heard loud and strange noises coming from the rectory. One night, they saw fire coming from Fr. Vianney’s bedroom: the Devil had lit Father’s bed on fire! At first, Fr. Vianney was afraid, but then he got used to the attacks. He finally figured out the timing of it all: every night the Devil came to attack him, a big sinner would come to Confession the next day – someone who hadn’t been to Confession in 20 or 30 or more years. With the help of Christ, St. John Vianney withstood the attacks of Satan, and won victory over him.

The Devil makes another rare appearance in today’s Gospel: he tempts Jesus in the desert three times. Usually, Satan works in invisible and very subtle ways. His main objective is to take people away from God without them even knowing of his presence. The Devil is not an evil God; he is not on the same level as God. He is an angel, a fallen angel. He used to be known as Lucifer which means “light-bearer”. He was the top and brightest angel. Like all angels, he was given a free choice to either serve God forever or reject Him forever. He and about 1/3 of the angels in Heaven chose to reject God because they were filled with pride.

The Book of Revelation, chapter 12, verse 7, says that a battle ensued between St. Michael and the good angels and Satan and the fallen angels. The good guys won! They crushed the demons, and cast them down to earth. Satan and his legion of demons now wage spiritual warfare on earth. He has made his presence known a few times – the Garden of Eden, to Christ in the desert, and to a few people like St. John Vianney. It’s very important for us to know that the Devil can never force us to do anything against our will. He tempts us in brilliant ways; he is much smarter than any of us. On our own, we can’t defeat him; but, with the help of God, we will be safe and win victory over our Enemy.”


At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my fear of the devil is a healthy thing, for it reminds me that he is present. I think his biggest trap is lulling people to believe he is nonexistent in our world. He creates the illusion that he’s not here, and if bad things happen in our lives, it’s because God has forsaken us, gives us impossible tasks or just made us weak (like, we can’t help ourselves).

I was listening to a debate about teaching teens about abstinence. There was a group of women who were adamant about NOT teaching abstinence. The conversation evolved past the point of “abstinence only” being taught to not talking about abstinence at all (in the schools). Their point- sex is a medical topic and should be taught from that perspective only, and the choice to abstain was a moral one and shouldn’t be discussed; it had no bearing on the subject matter. If we think it’s appropriate that the teaching, implementation and/or mere mention of morality should be completely absent from our schools, I’d say the devil is very much alive and well.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger fran said...

Here is my question re: the "abstinence only" issue. If NOT abstinence only, then what?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had written to the Washington Post on this very topic. A rebuttal letter appeared in the Post a few days later. There were also a number of comments on the Wash Post blogsite referencing both letters. The majority of the responses to my letter were negative, some very unpleasant.

I, personally, don't understand why people don't get it. Like one of the responses articulated very well, if you tell your children to abstain from sex until they are ready to have a child and when they are married, then add 'but if you are going to, then do this,' you have opened the door for them to rationalize pre-marital behavior which could result in an unplanned pregnancy. It is doublespeak at its best. And if a child is conceived, then what...??

I have counselled too many teenage girls and a few boys, who have been confronted with the unfortunate circumstance of an unplanned pregnancy. Why? Because they chose an option OTHER THAN abstinence. People must stop looking at abstinence as something weird, old-fashioned, prudish, whatever, and instead see it as a beautiful expression of self-control, respect of self and respect of the other person. That is what it is. That is what ALL of our children need to hear. Anything else is not good enough.

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just an FYI:

March for Life: Important Information on Buses - If your parish or school plans to take a bus to the Rally & Mass, or March for Life, please note that the District of Columbia now requires that any charter bus (even a school bus not owned by your school) must obtain a Trip Permit to enter the city. The permit costs $50. The bus operator can obtain the permit online at http://dmv.dc.gov/info/trippermit.shtm (click on “Trip Permit”). Failure to do so may result in a $500 fine or 180-day jail sentence for the bus owner. We look forward to seeing you on January 22.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A privately held corporation today announced that they have successfully cloned a human embryo (which they allowed to live for four days). The CEO of this corporation was interviewed, and he disclosed that it was his own skin cells that were used to “create” the cloned embryo. He said that he had this amazing experience of being able to journey back in time through his microscope to look at his very own life at that stage before the embryo was destroyed. I thought- did he hear his own words? Some of us have taken a journey of a different sort, one that looks to points in time where the Blessed Trinity was at work in our lives. From those experiences, some of us have also formed an idea that it is no mistake that the natural order of procreation also includes another trinity- a mother, a father and a child.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger fran said...

In the Cathecism, under The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit, it reads as follows:

1832 "The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."

Wouldn't it be a shame if we were, in essence, preventing the formation of these gifts in our children if we do not instruct them on abstinence?

As Catholic parents and teens, abstinence is something we should be passionate about. (pun intended) :)

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it works to teach our kids that their sexuality is a gift not meant to be squandered. Some may disagree with me and say they are all about practicality, but I think a real problem many parents have about talking to their children about abstinence is that they themselves don’t hold that belief that sex is a gift. It’s hard to hold up a value you don’t have, and kids know when we’re faking it.

I look back to choices I’ve made in my life and wish I’d made different ones. There isn’t one relationship I had as a young adult that was made better by engaging in that behavior. In those relationships I was left feeling emotionally disconnected, used and full of regret. It was like I gave away a huge part of who I was and wanted it back. You can’t tell me that any of our sexually active teens, especially our girls, don’t know what I’m talking about. So, for one moment put aside the topics of teen pregnancy and STD’s (and I’m not minimizing those topics), we are charged with the tremendous task of raising our children to be healthy and whole. I do not believe that a sexually active teenager can be either.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have teens of both sexes and have had many discussions on chastity, abstinence, sex before marriage, values, self respect, etc. Included in our discussion is the topic of birth control. In my opinion, by discussing birth control with my kids, I am not endorsing pre-marital sex, but educating them on topics they will hear about and live with. We live in a society where birth control is present as are diseases such as aids, hepatitis C & D and antibiotic resistant bacteria.

I understand the controversy around cloning and abortion, and I could not agree more with FG’s 1/18 comment about the church considering parents as the best example and source for information on education, sex, drinking, drugs, and all the other disparaging and dangerous choices our youth have to deal with. Yet, let us not loose faith in our own intelligence, our existence as a society. Ethical issues, of which medicine has an interest in, is a huge field right now, busy playing the catch up game. As a society, we seem to create procedures, chemicals, machines, humans, etc. before we totally understand or consider the life long implications of their existence. But, do we ever totally understand anything?

I wish we all thought and perceived events around us the same, that life existed in only two colors, black and white, that communal thought existed on some concepts, but in my opinion, this is not reality. If we all perceived events the same, how would we progress as a society? Without sin, how would we be able to understand the concept of forgiveness? Without evil, how would we know salvation? Sometimes it is the steps or the fall backward that allows us to understand how to move forward, leaving our mistakes or shortcomings behind. Unfortunately, this is often a painful process, with long term implications. But, I do not think Jesus lived a pain free life and there were long term implications to his decision on crucifixion.

Teaching the knowledge we have gained (birth control) does not necessarily endorse or support a concept. Conducting research (cloning) in hopes of a new concept or theory does not necessarily endorse or support a concept. Our thinking, our choice(s) of how we apply new information is what supports or endorses a concept. Why did God give us the gift of thought and intelligence and free will? Do we ignore it, or use it?

If we choose to use our free will, and conduct research on new theories, will mistakes - a negative- be made along the way? They already have, thanks to Adam & Eve. Will knowledge be gained - a positive- through research on new theories? They already have, look at our medical advances over the past 200 years. There are no guarantees in life. We need to keep the faith that our omnipotent God has given us enough intelligence to teach, to make decisions, good and bad, to learn and remember that he will never abandon us. We must pray that we, individually and as a society, never abandon him.

At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“In my opinion, by discussing birth control with my kids, I am not endorsing pre-marital sex, but educating them on topics they will hear about and live with.”

I guess I don't understand the context in which this happens- discussing birth control while not condoning premarital sex. What does one say- "You shouldn't have sex, but some people do, and when they do, they might use birth control. Among those options includes the methods of...."

I'm not saying our youth should be ignorant- NO. But what is our intention in giving them information? Does the reason smack of resignation to something beyond our control with our youth? That’s the idea that bothers me.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

Conducting research (cloning) in hopes of a new concept or theory does not necessarily endorse or support a concept.

It supports the concept that conducting the reserach is a morally good activity.

Cloning human beings is a morally evil activity. And we cannot do evil that good may result.

At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yet, let us not loose faith in our own intelligence, our existence as a society."

Often I think the problem in our society is that we have too much faith in our intelligence.

A good friend of mine had trouble getting pregnant. She prayed and prayed, but when that didn't yield her the results she wanted, she stepped outside of her faith to achieve her goal. I watched (and listened) as she struggled to make her choice "okay." Her final rationale of the decision to proceed with in vitro was that God gave us intelligence. She also believed that if the end result was good (and who can say a baby isn't good) then, the means must be also good.

When we put faith in intelligence before faith in God's law, Tom said it- "we cannot do evil that good may result." While my friend may have her babies, innocent life was lost in the process, and no on can tell me that one life is more valuable than another.

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

"Why did God give us the gift of thought and intelligence and free will? Do we ignore it, or use it?"

Perhaps He gave it to us so that we would freely chose Him.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger fran said...

Birth control, pre-marital sex, human cloning, same sex-marriage, abortion......free will.

What is the connection here? You can choose to use birth control, have pre-marital sex, clone a human, marry a person of the same sex, if the state in which you live has such a law, or have an abortion. You can choose to live your life any way you choose. The God given gift of free will allows us to make such choices.
However, each and every one of us better be asking ourselves this question, if and when we do make such choices:
What do you plan on saying, how do you plan on responding when you face God on Judgment Day.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

"If we choose to use our free will, and conduct research on new theories, will mistakes - a negative- be made along the way?"

I support many forms of medical research and applaud the scientist who labor to find answers and cures, but those answers can't be realized at the cost of life- ever. That's a mistake we are told- over and over again- is wrong. We're not only called to believe it, we're commanded to live it.

Regarding cloning- we are not only a collection of molecules. There is danger in looking at life in the terms that we are creatures rather than creations. The Bible clearly teaches that God created each of us each uniquely. That uniqueness is part of God’s image and is not a commodity to be traded; regardless of any “benefit” science may chose to highlight.


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