October 24, 2021

Sermon – The Sixth Sunday of Luke 2021

The Sixth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
October 24, 2021

Today’s Gospel lesson graphically illustrates how being abandoned to the
power of evil leads to death and destruction. It is also not uncommon to find, as
the lesson reveals: that cases of demonic possession is characterized in their
last throes, by a certain fury; and how the presence of such a power of evil
invokes fear.

The Gospel passage also shows us that there was complete perversion (with
distortion and corruption) in the region of the Gerasenes. St. Luke also records
that after the healing of the demon-possessed man, the people of the region of
the Gerasenes, who were horrified, begged Jesus to leave them alone. In verse 35
we hear: “…they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at
Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

Evil had pervaded in the region to the degree that it infected the
environment, and the people considered abnormality to be normal. In other words,
their familiarity with evil was pervasive to the extent that it was accepted as
the norm. This is spoken about in the New Testament as a reprobate condition (see
Romans, chapter 1).

Soon we will celebrate the feast of St. Raphael, and the Feast of our Patron,
Michael, the Archangel, who together with Gabriel and the bodiless powers are
celebrated in the Church among the leading forces of good, obedient to the will
of God. Contrary to these forces are those who rebel against God and whose work
is evil. These are demons or devils (which literally means those who pull apart
and destroy), spoken about in the Old and New Testaments as well as in the lives
of the Saints of the Church. Satan (which literally means enemy or the adversary,
and who is specifically identified as “the Evil One” in the Lord’s Prayer) are
among the names for the devil, the leader of evil spirits. He is identified with
the serpent in chapter three of the book of Genesis, and as the tempter of both
the Righteous Job (Job 1:6) and Jesus (Mark 1:33). He is labeled by Christ as the
deceiver and “the father of lies” (John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11). He has fallen
from heaven together with his evil angels to do battle with God and his servants
(see Luke 10:18; Isaiah 14:12). It is this same Satan who “entered Judas” to
effect the betrayal, the crucifixion and death of Christ (Luke 22:3).

St. Paul provides us with a clear challenge: (Ephesians 6:10ff) …be strong
in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that
you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle
against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness… St. Paul
highlights something that we can easily overlook: That our struggle and spiritual
warfare is not easily perceived; it is not something that can be easily
identified. It can be deceptive and very cunning. It is a spiritual delusion that
promotes a false reality.

As parents and Godparents, we have to know how to be spiritually proactive. Being
proactive does not mean that we have to go witch hunting. It does
mean that we have to: 1) maintain a self-discipline of daily prayer and
repentance, 2) fast when necessary, 3) not be negligent in preparing or
participating in the Sacraments, 4) fill our minds with good thoughts (Whatsoever
is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is
lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think
about [these] things, Phil. 4:8); be involved positive conversations (seeking
truth, avoiding gossip), and become educated in matters of the faith, 5) guarding
(protecting) our hearts from becoming inclined to affections that separate us
from God, 6) cultivate a godly environment (at home, in the workplace, and at
school) – who we associate with, the friendships we establish; the atmosphere we
create with the things we use and adorn ourselves and our space – where we live,
work, play, even the places and the environment we choose to be entertained at.
We should never procrastinate in doing and maintaining these things. Yes, it
requires discipline, but should be motivated by our relationship with God: our
love for God and His love for us. For children it is especially important because
the earliest (formative) years of a child determine a great deal.

Today’s Gospel lesson, which presents to us a very dramatic image of the
force of evil, provides a very important message to us: Anyone who identifies
with demons is driven, or in bondage to the power of evil, looses his own
personality and independence. One’s loss of personal identity and self-worth,
therefore, is a symptom of demonic activity. God, on the other hand never
“possesses” a person. Any possession is demonic. The work of God, one can be
sure, is always the opposite of demonic activity. God frees, liberates, renews,
unites, builds up, regenerates, heals and affirms. It builds godliness and
preserves purity. Evil suppresses, demeans, deceives, constricts, possesses,
fosters idolatry, promotes filthiness and uncleanness, tears apart, steals,
kills, and destroys.

In the Lord’s encounter with the demon possessed man, he asks: “What is
your name?” His purpose was to bring the man back to an awareness of his own
identity and to restore him to his own personality and independence. When a
person is sunk in habits driven by the power of evil, Christ desires that there
be a disassociation and an end to a relationship with these attachments, and a
recollection of one’s own name – the name one receives from God: “I have called
thee by name; thou art mine…” (Isaiah 43:1). In this name, by which God calls
us, is found our true liberty and vocation.

In answering the Lord, the demon possessed man said: “My name is
Legion”, and the Gospel explains that this was “because many demons had entered
into him” (verse 30). Here lies an important lesson. Satan is cunning. He is
known as “an angel of Light”. His ways are subtle. His purposes are evil. His
objective is deception and his goal is destruction. With each temptation, one’s
instincts, mental images, and psychic elements are prompted to take on a chaotic
independence. One’s will, weakened by successive falls, looses self-control to
the point that one’s personality becomes disassociated with good and
disintegrates. Only God can gather these broken fragments and heal them.

The Bible teaches that the final victory between the forces of good and evil
belongs to God and to those with Him. Satan and his hosts are ultimately
destroyed. It is important, however, that we become aware that the devil,
commonly depicted at this time of year, dressed as a “red-suited gentleman with
horns” and a grossly physical tempter, is in fact, a subtle, intelligent spirit,
who acts mostly by deceit and hidden actions, having as his greatest victory
man’s disbelief in God’s existence and power. Thus, the devil attacks “head-on”
those whom he can deceive in no other way: Jesus and the greatest of saints.
However, his greatest effectiveness is his concealed and indirect methods and
means with the spiritually weak and vulnerable.

Finally, in the epistle of the Holy Apostle Peter we hear this caution: “Be
sober, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion
seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). There is probably no greater
opportunity for us, during the annual season of Halloween, to take a sober look
at evil as a very present reality, and one that we should never glorify,
celebrate, or allow to flourish.

O Lord, our God, the King of the ages, Almighty, All-powerful, the security
of those who hope in Thee, we pray and ask: Remove, drive away and banish from
us every diabolic activity, every Satanic scheme, every plot, evil curiosity and
injury of the mischievous and wicked. Stretch forth your mighty hand and your
powerful and lofty arm and send to all who are in fear an angel of peace, a
mighty guardian of soul and body who will rebuke and drive away the wicked
intentions of every destructive and envious person that are cleverly thrown
against us. Enable us to say with confidence: “The Lord is my helper, I will not
be afraid…” and “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me…” For you are our God,
our strength, the All-powerful, the Prince of Peace, and the Father of the age to
come, and blessed is Thy Name, and glorified is Thy Kingdom: of the Father and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. A-men.