Be off Satan!
There is a true story of a well-to-do Indian poet who said that for years, his inspiration came during the hours he would sit quietly contemplating the beauty of the moon every night. Until his family fell on hard times and no longer had enough food to put on the table. As he looked at the moon and felt the pangs of hunger in his stomach, the moon was anything but a source of inspiration for him. In fact, to look at it became a living hell.Because all he could see when he looked at the moon was the traditional disc of Indian Chapatti bread that he longed for so much to satisfy his hunger…
When everything is going well in life, we tend to just carry on, don’t we? We can even take our blessings for granted.But what if those comforts began to be taken away from us? What if we weren’t sure where our next meal would come from? Or if we were faced with the uncertainty of illness? Its at moments of vulnerability like these that all our values are called into question. Its when we’re most vulnerable that temptation is at its most powerful.
The “devil” is not a word we hear much talk about in our world except maybe in the context of a few sensational Hollywood movies. But the New Testament paints a very clear picture of the devil. For the Bible, “O Diabolos” or the devil is the one who “divides”, the one who causes disharmony, disunity, the one who brings about division…And more often than not, its when someone is doing well in life that the devil very subtly enters into their life and turns it upside down. The most striking example of that in the Hebrew Bible is in the Book of Job.
St. Mathtew paints a very subtle but dramatic picture of the devil in the Gospel today. Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desertwhere the sheer harshness of the desert will test him to the very core. The devil waits for his opportunity to strike and he gets it when Jesus is at his most vulnerable. When he’s tired and exhausted after his 40 day fast. And the devil’s tactic is very clever.He tries to sow a tiny little seed of doubt in Christ’s mind…Wouldn’t a loaf of bread be just the perfect remedy for that awful hunger ? Wouldn’t you be the happiest man in the world if you owned all these lands I’m showing you…Wouldn’t your life be so much easier than it is now?
One of the greatest triumphs of Satan is to convince us that our lives can be without suffering…that far away hills are greener, that we can never be happy here and now, wherever we find ourselves. So we can end up always looking for happiness “out there” and lose sight of God’s presence in the here and now of our lives.
Jesus sees the devil’s temptations for what they are…nothing but an illusion. But we don’t always see them for what they are. That’s why we need Christ’s help.Because Christ is strong when we are weak…And Christ forgives when we fall…Today we find ourselves once again at the beginning of Lent. Lent calls us never to forget our simple origins…We come from God who made us to be happy in him. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” St. Augustine used to say. As we start off on our Lenten journey towards Easter this Sunday,lets take an honest look at our own lives. What are the illusions that the devil puts my way when I’m at my weakest? What are the temptations that cause me to stray far from God and lose sight of his closeness in my life? As soon as we recognise these illusions, we too can say with the Lord: “Be off Satan, for scripture says ‘You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone’.”