Today, many people, including some priests, do not believe in the existence of the devil. They say it is just a symbol of evil. The head of the Jesuits recently said there is no such thing as the devil and yet the devil is mentioned many times in Scripture, including by Jesus. Was Jesus just speaking figuratively? If so, why did he commission the Apostles to ‘heal the sick and cast out demons’ (Matt 10:8). It also says that Jesus gave the Apostles ‘power against unclean spirits, to cast them out’ (Matt 10:1). It says in St. Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11). Was this just his imagination?
I want to tell you a story I heard recently by a priest called Fr. Michel Rodrigue, a Canadian priest and exorcist.
He says, “When I was having my eighth heart attack and was in an ambulance, being injected with nitrate over and over again and going in and out of consciousness, I heard a man screaming at me and cursing me with rage. He didn’t like my collar. He was a paramedic in the ambulance. The others told him to be quiet, saying he couldn’t treat a patient that way. He said, “I don’t give a @#**! about you, you priest.”
When they got to the hospital the paramedic followed him in, continually cursing and shouting at him. The doctors told him to stop, but he refused. He shouted at Fr. Michel, “I’m choosing hell! Do you like that?! Are you okay with that?!” With those words, Fr. Michel took a deep breath, was suddenly alert and said to him, “You want to go to hell? Then may you burn right now” and then he blessed him in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then Fr. Michel passed out.
|Fr. Michel Rodrigue|
Several hours later when he came to his senses, the hospital staff started telling him about the man who had been cursing him. He says, “At first, I didn’t know what they were talking about and then my brain began to remember.” They told him that this man was still in the hospital because he was burning inside as though on fire and they couldn’t do anything to cool him down. They asked if he could help him.
Fr. Michel said, “It’s good for him, it’s not a problem. Let him burn,” but the staff kept asking if I could see him. I came to a room in the hospital where all the windows were flung open. This was Canada in wintertime. “We took his temperature and the thermometer was at its maximum. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
“When I walked into the room, I could feel the heat coming from his body, even though the gusts of air coming into the room from outside were freezing. A male nurse was holding up a sheet in front of him because he was completely naked, unable to wear any clothes or anything that would touch his skin.”
The man started crying out, “I’m so hot. Help me. I’m burning!”
Fr. Michel said, “You told me this is what you wanted. You wanted to burn in hell. Is that still where you to want to go? You don’t know what you’re saying when you say that’s where you want to go. You’re experiencing it now. Is that what you want?”
He said, “I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to go!”
“Then are you ready to confess your sins?”
“There in the hospital, I heard his confession and when he received absolution, he not only felt completely normal, but like an entirely new man.
I had to stay in the hospital for a few days in order to recover and then I wanted to get out and see some new scenery, so I went with a fellow priest to a jazz festival in Montreal. As we were walking through the noisy festival, I was telling him about the incidence with the “burning” man. He said, “The Devil is not real. You’re just imagining all that.”
“You’re wrong, I said. The devil is very real.” Then I stopped. I could hear my name being called out, even though there was so much noise.
We looked around to see a man in the distance walking quickly toward me, accompanied by a woman.
When he arrived he said, “I’ve been looking for you for such a long time. I want to thank you.” he said to me.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” I asked him.
“I’m the paramedic who was cursing you when you had the heart attack and you helped me so much when you heard my confession.”
“You’re welcome,” I said.
Then the woman spoke. She was his wife. She said for almost ten years she hadn’t been able to recognize her husband because he became so mean. She hardly knew him any more and prayed daily for his conversion. “When he came home after you heard his confession, he came home the man that I married.”
Fr. Michel went on to say that the priest with him stood there with his mouth open, in shock at what he was hearing. He said all this happened to help this priest to believe in the reality of the devil.
They say that Satan’s greatest achievement is to make us believe he doesn’t exist. If we believe that, then we won’t take any precautions to protect ourselves against him and his ongoing attacks against us.
Look at what is happening in the world around us right now. What do you think is causing all of this? Is it just human evil that is causing it? I think it is obvious that there is something more sinister at work and one of the reasons is that so many people have turned away from God and left themselves wide open to the powers of darkness. Not only that, but people are actively engaging in all kinds of actions which open them up to spiritual evil. The Lord warns us to stay away from these things in Scripture. In Deuteronomy it says:
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, who interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or who is a medium, or spiritist, or consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. (Deut 18: 10-12)
You can add fortune tellers, psychics and Tarot card readers to that list. If we deliberately go against what is forbidden in the Scriptures, or deliberately persist in what we know is sinful, we are opening ourselves up to evil. That is why the Lord warns us to stay away from these things, because they will harm us. In the same way, we cannot expect God’s blessing on our lives and our families if we deliberately go against God’s Commandments.
How do we protect ourselves from the influence of evil? By using the weapons the Lord has given us: above all, prayer; our faith, the Scriptures, using holy water and keeping blessed objects in our homes.
Listen to what St. Paul says about it:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12).
How did he know this? because the Lord must have taught him. And we have been given these writings to make us aware too.
Should we be afraid? Of course not. If we are with the Lord, there is nothing we need fear. Look at today’s Gospel reading, where there was a man who was possessed. When Jesus came into the synagogue, the demon shouted out in Jesus’ presence:
“What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are. The holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24)
The same account is repeated in St. Luke and St. Matthew's Gospel and there are several other instances of the same thing. The demons are terrified of Jesus, because he is the Son of God. Everything is subject to him and that is what we need to remember. We should be wary so that we don’t put ourselves in harms way, but also believe in what God’s word tells us; it tells us not to be afraid. Everything is subject to God’s power.