I wonder if any of you remember Flip Wilson, an African-American comedian from the late 1960’s and 1970’s. He was the first African-American comedian to host his own television show.
One of the characters he used to portray was a woman named Geraldine who popularized the phrase, “the devil made me do it.” As I read the passage from the Letter of James today, I couldn’t help but think of Geraldine. He writes: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b).
The devil is very much at work in our world today. One only needs to read a newspaper on any given day to find the truth of that statement. However, there is also something to be said for realizing that much of the evil within our world today is a product of our own passions, as St. James calls them. In other words, we allow the devil to use our natural passions to create the evil in the world. Whether we identify the devil as a personification of evil or as sin itself, the warfare, the violence, the personal attacks, the vitriol that spills from our lips, the prejudice that blocks our hearts, and the pride that urges us to put ourselves and our needs first comes from within us. We are sinners.
We have just finished celebrating the Easter Season in which we remembered that we have been freed from the burden of sin. However, it seems so difficult for us to hold on to that thought and recall it throughout our day. There is no question that we are surrounded by evil. We should not ignore, however, that the evil that surrounds us is the product of our own failure to resist temptation and our inability to contain our passions.
Like an addict who is controlled by alcohol or by drugs, the only way to release the grip of the devil on our lives is to admit that we are powerless in the face of evil and that we depend upon the strength of Jesus to overcome sin, not only in our own lives but in the world in which we live. Once we admit our weakness, it is possible to work through it and accept the strength of Jesus, the only human being who has conquered the power of evil.
The Eucharist offers us a tangible way to be filled with Christ’s strength. The graces we receive through the Eucharist help us to resist temptations both from within ourselves as well as from the outside world.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator