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Obey Christ For Abundant Life…

Obey Christ For Abundant Life…

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

The people of Capernaum witnessed the authority and power of Jesus, “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” The demons are mere creatures, but Jesus Christ is Lord. Will we heed and obey him? According to Catholic exorcists, a good confession is more powerfully effective than an exorcism. This makes sense. It is difficult to root out demonic influence in a person’s life when the person is siding with the demons in rebellions against God through grave sin. But once that person comes to Confession — repentant, seeking to sin no more — they are rejecting those sins and the demons lose some in-roads.

I once received a request from an unmarried, non-Catholic couple to help them with spiritual disturbances occurring in their home. They were hearing strange noises and voices, seeing and finding inanimate objects moving about, and their dogs were behaving strangely. Unless they were lying to me (and I can see no purpose in them lying) the couple sometimes witnessed phenomena together, which rules out the possibility of these being mere hallucinations. I visited and spoke with them, blessed their house, prayed for them, and blessed them.

When I reached out to them some months later, they said they had been thinking about contacting me again. They said that following the house blessing things had gotten better — quieter, for a time — but then the disturbances resumed and maybe worse than before. So I came back and blessed their house and both of them anew, but I admonished them again, just as I had before, that it was gravely important that they cease fornicating. I told them God’s will for them was either to marry, to live separately, or to live chastely like a brother and sister. Behaving otherwise is to lie with one’s body; simulating a permanent gift of self without vowing that same commitment before God and the world.

That man and woman and I did not know whether spiritual disturbances had occurred in that house before they moved in. However, I can see why the Lord might permit these unsettling signs for the couple’s own good: to deepen their faith in spiritual things, to help them recognize their sin, and to motivate them to change. I believe my first blessings had some effect to reveal to these non-Catholics that such blessings hold power and to validate me as a messenger. Yet these blessings did not make the disturbances go away forever since that would do them little good; making the symptoms disappear without curing the underlying disease. The couple was grateful for my visits, but I do not know what they went on to choose.

Jesus manifests his full authority over demons. “He commands…the unclean spirits and they obey him.” So one might ask, “Why doesn’t Jesus simply constrain all of the demons now, making them completely incapable of doing anything?” I suppose some imagine that without any demons there would be no further evil in the world, but temptations and sins would still remain. As St. James writes in his New Testament letter, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.” Would our temptations be less if the demons were no more? Quite possibly. So why does Jesus allow them to prowl about the world at all? It must be for our greater good and glory, for “God works all things for the good of those who love him.” Why was Satan allowed to tempt Jesus in the desert if not for Christ’s glory and our greater good? And notice how once Jesus said, “Get away, Satan,” then the devil left him. Jesus Christ offers each of us the grace to do his will, but will we heed and obey him?

Someday, I would like to write a book imagining modern-day America if it suddenly became impossible to commit the vast majority of sins. How would people react to God the Father decreeing that much more of his active will must be done on earth as it is in heaven? My story would describe the initial disruptions for a society in which the markets for immoral things evaporate overnight, and many other goods and jobs (like door locks and security guards) are no longer needed. Then I would tell how much society would benefit from the abolishment of sin. Imagine all of the wealth wasted on sins or on repairing sins’ effects instead being spent more usefully; not to mention the greater peace people would enjoy from never being willfully mistreated anymore. Yet my narrative would also note how much people would complain; for instance, they would insist upon their “rights” to speed or curse or lie, or to misuse their bodies or their money however they desire. They would denounce God for his tyranny, and wail and grind their teeth. For these people, it would be like a hell on earth.

In Deuteronomy, Moses proclaims to the Hebrews, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.” God declares about that prophet, “[I] will put my words into his mouth… Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.” Jesus is that promised prophet raised up from his own people, the Incarnate Word of God. “People were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Jesus does not instruct us in order to control us. He does not command us so that he may dominate us. Jesus declares, “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that [you] might have life and have it more abundantly.” In this age, we are free to disobey God like the demons did. But in the age to come, such sins will no longer be permitted. If we die as friends of God, before we can enter heaven our love for sins will need to first be fully purged. God shall not force his enemies into heaven against their will.

Brothers and sisters, Christ is Lord. He is here to help us, not to destroy us. So choose love over sin, end your rebellions, and encounter him in the confessional. Heed his authority, obey his teachings, and embrace the more abundant life Jesus is offering you.

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