My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Why I am not surprised that Pope Francis speaks about the devil so often? Because the Pope is permeated with God’s Word. If we read the Gospels truthfully we discover that Jesus met the devil in all sort of places. The beginning of the Lord’s mission was marked by the temptations in the desert. It wasn’t an imagination of a hungry person. It was the fight for the salvation of people which would take Jesus to Golgotha and to the Day of the Resurrection. However the Scriptures remind us that the devil is not a desert person. Staying away from the desert is not going to make us safe. Keeping close to Jesus will. That was the very first message of the new Pope in 2013. On the day after he was elected Pope Francis preached: “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: ‘Anyone who does not pray to the Lord Jesus prays to the devil.’ When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demoniac worldliness.”
The next year he reminded the Church: ‘The devil also exists in the 21st century, and we need to learn from the Gospel how to battle against him.’ Today’s Gospel gives us such learning. It is Jesus who’s got authority. He has got authority to teach which as we could hear ‘made a deep impression’ on his listeners. He has got authority to cast out devils as we could also hear in the Gospel: ‘He gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ Our advantage in the battle against the unclean spirits is in our faith in Jesus. That’s why we were repeating after the Psalmist: ‘If today you hear your voice, harden not your hearts.’ The Word of God, when it is welcomed with an open heart, is a powerful protection and exorcism. The heart which becomes hardened to the Lord becomes soft to the devil.
In another talk Pope Francis offered his insight on the technics of the devil: ‘his temptation begins gradually but it grows and always is growing. Secondly, it grows and infects another person; it spreads to another and seeks to be part of the community. And in the end, in order to calm the soul, it justifies itself. It grows, it spreads and it justifies itself.’ Today’s Gospel is an example for that. Where did Jesus meet the devil? In a synagogue, in a holy place. As I said before, the devil is not a desert person. He will find his way to infiltrate even holy places. The Bible calls him the unclean spirit, and he is unclean indeed, but he works in white gloves. That’s why he can hide his uncleanness.
Saint Padre Pio was often found beaten by the unclean spirit but he would explain that it was because the devil couldn’t hide his true intentions from him. However most of the time he will work like a gentleman wearing white gloves. What would eventually happen to that synagogue if Jesus didn’t come there? It would be totally infected. That’s why before the Holy Communion we will pray the way Jesus taught us and we will ask God: ‘Deliver us from evil.’ Then the priest will continue: ‘Deliver us, Lord, we pray from every evil.’ Deliver us Lord because you have authority.
Last week I learned that in our Oblate seminary in Poland half of the community returned a positive result for coronavirus. They discovered it by accident. They didn’t have drastic symptoms but the virus was already spreading through the community. This is how the devil will work in any Christian community. ‘It grows, it spreads and it justifies itself,’ using the words of Pope Francis.
I said at the beginning that it surprises me how little we know Pope Francis. I think that the reason is that relying on media etc., we get a filtered image and message of the Pope. What about the image of Jesus we have? Is it the image of the Holy Scriptures or the social medial?