By our vices we empower the demons
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read the story of the two demoniacs who lived in a graveyard and everyone was terrified to go near them. The gospels of St. Luke and St. Mark provide us with more details about these men. St. Luke, speaking about one of them, writes that the man was completely naked. St. Mark adds that the man would often be chained by his hands and feet but having tremendous strength he would break the chains into pieces and no one could subdue him. He lived day and night among the tombs and would cut himself with stones.
This is perhaps one of the most disturbing stories of the New Testament. It is also the clearest example in the scriptures of the reality of evil and how demonic spirits can enter into people, animals and even objects. It is also the most dramatic display of the power of Christ over evil.
St. Theophylact explains that “the demons asked to be sent into the pigs so they could drown them and their owners would be grieved and would not welcome Christ. Christ granted the demons their request in order to show how great is their bitterness towards human beings, and that if they had the power, and were not prevented as they are by God, they would do worse things to us than they did to the pigs. For God protects those possessed by demons so that they do not kill themselves.”
Somehow, the demons had entered these men. No one knows how long ago. But it’s clear that they had lived a life of being distant from God and therefore became vulnerable to the power of evil to such an extent that many demons lived inside them and controlled them.
St. Peter Chrysologus states that the demons “ardently seek to destroy and dispossess all that is, acts, moves and lives. They seek the death of people. The ancient enmity of deep rooted wrath and malice is in store for the human race. Demons do not give up easily unless they are forcibly overcome. They are doing the harm they are ordered to do. Therefore the foul-smelling animals are delivered up that it may be made clear to the demons that they have permission to enter the pigs but not to enter humans. It is by our vices that we empower them to do harm.”
What are these vices that empower the demons in our society today? The vices are the opposite of the virtues. The vices are: gluttony, lust, greed, pride, anger, laziness, despondency and vainglory.
The vices are what empower the demons to do us harm. When we commit these vices, we open the door to the demons.
We have to be aware that demonic energy exist in our society at a massive scale. It is a very seductive, sinister, atheistic, ideological power that actively promotes, legislates, celebrates sinful and ungodly behavior and expects you to do the same, and it bullies and punishes anyone who stands against it.
This power exerts itself in all facets of public life, especially in our schools where it has led to the erosion of the authority of parents, and where our children are being forced to choose between being loyal to the teachings of the Church or risk being exposed and labeled as bigoted and hateful.
This power calls evil good and good evil. In fact, this power likes to call things by different names and plays with words or invents new ones. A long time ago, it convinced us to call a pre-born child a fetus, in order to dehumanize it, strip it of its human rights, of an identity, so it can be murdered and its body parts harvested and sold for profit. I find it ironic that the same people who are up in arms about children being torn from their parents by immigration officers, in itself a horrendous practice, nonetheless turn a blind eye and are completely silent when those same children are being torn apart in the womb.
Because you see, this power likes to play both sides against the middle, making us forget that the middle is all of us. It makes us label each other as liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, white or black, rich or poor, so it can divide us in order to destroy us.
What is the solution to all of this? St. Peter Chrysologus goes on to say that “by our power of faith, we tread on the necks of demons. They become subject to us under Christ who is triumphant.”
In other words, the power of evil is powerless before the power of Christ. We have been given power to destroy the demons, but we have to choose to use it.
When we live a life of prayer, of fasting, of repentance, of sacrificial love for others, of receiving the Holy Sacraments with humility, of obedience to the Church and her teachings, of fear of God and his laws, the demons are powerless against us. Furthermore, God gives our minds wisdom and our hearts courage to stand up against anything and anyone. But when we relax and neglect any of these, we become weak and vulnerable to the destructive power of evil, in our homes, in our families, in our marriages, in our schools, and in our society.
We become unable to see through the deception, the ideology, the propaganda, the politics and the herd-mentality which, like the pigs in the story, leads so many people off the deep end.
In our society, we often hear a lot of talk about progress, change and freedom. But until we see and value ourselves and all people, from babies in the womb, the homeless on the streets and the elderly in nursing homes, as being made in the image and likeness of God, worthy of respect, protection and love, only then can we dare call ourselves progressive, civilized and free.
As Orthodox Christians, we are called to be in this world, but not of this world. We are called to expose the darkness and evil. We are called to be like living fish who swim against the stream of cultural trends and not like the dead ones that are carried away by it. We are called to speak truth to power. To be courageous and willing to suffer and lose everything for the sake of our faith, our beliefs, for the sake of truth, goodness and beauty, for the sake of Christ.
Because only Christ can give us real progress – progress of our souls and bodies from this fleeting, temporary life into glorious and eternal life.
Only Christ can give us real change – change and transformation from our broken and fallen nature and all its confusion and pain, into a healed, sanctified nature that shares in the life and peace and joy of God himself.
Only Christ can give us true freedom – because as he freed the two demoniacs in the gospel reading, he gives to all human beings the gift of freedom from the power of evil and death.
May we have the faith, the humility and the courage to accept and use this gift and its power. May we respond to this gift with a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God every day and in everything we do and everything we are.
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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