Before you read anymore of this post, I’ve got a little assignment for you:
Go read Romans 8:39.
Go find your Bible, or Google it, or anything. Just read it. Read it a couple times. Know it. Be sure of it. Otherwise, the rest of this post will not make sense. Romans 8:39.
Ok, are we good to go now?
Just the other night, down here at the Seminary, we had our monthly movie night. Such a good way to spend a few hours as a community, especially since some of us are so close to the deadline for our biggest project of the semester. An easy get away with each other without having to feel too guilty about stepping away from our work for just a little bit.
The movie we watched: The Exorcist.
Sure, that might seem kind of a funny thing for a bunch of Seminarians to sit down and watch. Or it might make perfect sense. Either way, we didn’t just sit down and watch it as a horror film, or just nervously laugh at what was actually pretty darn scary. Nope, we took it pretty seriously.
One of our priests, a movie buff, a connoisseur, if you will, presented it to us, gave us a little lecture before hand about the power of evil, but more so the love of Christ that we cannot ignore when faced with such blatant evil. The movie, then, was not so much about the hideous transformation of a beautiful young girl, so much as it was about the danger of letting evil enter into our lives, the ugly results of doing that, and then the strength of faith and love over the dirtiest, foulest, most obscene parts of our world.
With this in mind, this one line of the movie hit me the hardest: when the devil first speaks with his own voice through the girl he has possessed, he says, “The soul is mine!” And to the movie-goer without faith, that is the most terrifying thing that happens or is said in the movie. Or at least I think it should be.
But the faithful heart knows that it is a lie!
The soul is God’s, even if the body is racked with sin and evil. Without faith, we might think the devil has complete control. He does not! The ugliest part of this movie is the way the girl goes from being so cute, to becoming one of the dirtiest, foulest, most obscene parts of our world. One of the priests in the movie says something amazing near the end. He says that the devil tries to use such ugliness to try to prove to us that God can’t possibly love us. But we know the devil is a liar!
I don’t often bring these things up here, about the movement of the devil or evil in the world. But as our resident priest movie expert made pretty clear to us beforehand from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters (great book!), the devil is perfectly happy either way, if we pretend he does not exist, or if we give him the glory instead of God. The devil is real, and he does not need to do something as ugly as we saw in “The Exorcist” to try to convince us that God is weak. There are things in our world that he is happy to use to convince us that God cannot possibly love us: addictions, murders, our own sins, and, yes, even typhoons and hurricanes. And he will try to convince the heart without faith that there is nothing we can do: It’s just the way life is.
But we know, just like St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:39 (read it again!), that it is a lie. There is nothing that will separate us from the love of Christ! That is what the Gospel is all about, every last part of it!
So yes, the danger of ignoring the devil is just as dangerous as dwelling on him and letting ourselves be interested in him. That is why I am not writing this to let you know about the devil. I am writing this to let you know about God. I know Fr. James already told a lot of this to some of you when he talked about exorcism, but I cannot repeat it enough: God has already won, and he is not going to let go of you! The evil of this world, when our families and friends seem so far away, when school and every social stress that comes with it overwhelms, when we mourn the death of someone taken too young, when our brothers and sisters around the world are devastated by natural disasters, how dare we think God is losing, that he has forgotten us, that the devil is going to win.
No, our God is not losing. He does not just lose souls. And I will keep on saying it and repeating it, even in the ugliest times and places: our God does not make mistakes, he does not just let us go.