By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 9, 2013
Sometimes reading the headlines makes me cringe. Page after page screams of relentless, dark, depressing, hideous and upsetting events all around the world.
Sometimes it is scenes of weeping families that result from natural disasters like earthquakes and storms. But, worse still are the treacherous deeds done by human beings, plotting to harm others for whatever terrible reason. Along these lines are all the heart-breaking tales of sexual assaults and murders—and the recent horrific bombings in Boston.
Even though heinous deeds are committed in different parts of the world, and by very different people, there is a common theological link.
Many people, however, disregard this link because they have turned their backs on anything to do with God or the bigger picture, and they see crime and terrorism purely in human terms. And when you look at these events through just a human lens, sometimes all you can do is shrug and say the world is a terrible place.
Other people take a different tack. Even if they are basically non-believers, they will point the finger of blame at the very being they profess not to believe in, namely God. So in an odd sort of way God becomes a scapegoat for all the evil in the world, as some people bitterly proclaim that he should have intervened in these events.
Unfortunately, such complaints against God overlook an essential fact of the human condition, which is that we were created with free will. God didn’t make robots that would always, without fail, love him and obey his laws. Instead, he made us capable of choosing between good and evil, between sanctity and sin—and the result is the world we live in today.
The danger is forgetting that people are also capable of great heroism and enormous good. In the case of the terrorist attack in Boston, there were countless Good Samaritans who sacrificed greatly to help people. Still, the sad truth is their compassion would not have been necessary had the bombers not chosen the dreadfully dark side by engineering the cruel event.
In his homilies, Pope Francis frequently mentions the prince of darkness, the one who dances for joy whenever a heart is broken or a life is brutally lost.
“I believe the Devil exists,” Pope Francis writes in “On Heaven and Earth,” a book recently translated into English, and adds that his “fruits are always destruction: division, hate, and slander.”
Unfortunately, many people have tried to reduce the Devil to a psychological tendency rather than a real being. As author Flannery O’Connor noted in 1962, it was ironic that “in these evil times we should need fresh evidence of the existence of Satan.”
Evil is real, and so is sin, but the old quote “The Devil made me do it” is a major cop-out. In fact, the Devil is very much like Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula, who could not cross the threshold of someone’s home unless invited.
Humanity has been through war after war, murder after murder, and still it goes on. It is easy to feel powerless, but there is much we can do. St. Peter reminded us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”
We can wage spiritual warfare against the darkness in the world by banishing violent impulses in our own hearts, no matter how small, and refusing to grasp the callused, rough hand of the Devil. We can also give the Devil his due by recognizing that the dark deeds paraded on the nightly news are proof of his existence.
How I wish we could bring back a powerful prayer once said after every Mass: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
Even if his name doesn’t make the headlines, the Devil still is roaming throughout our world. Let’s continue to be vigilant—and continue to pray. Let’s send him back to the place where he came from, and never invite him back.