In the cycle of spiritual reflections on “Our Father” Fr.Luis Casasus, the general superior of men’s branch of Idente Missionaries, reflected on the last phrases of Lord’s prayer. He explained What is evil or who is evil to the participants, who in their turn pointed out the difficulty of discerning it in concrete situations or personal choices and actions.
Here we invite you to read and reflect on the words of Fr.Luis:
Deliver us from Evil
1. What is evil or who is evil.
Let us reflect on the last and brief request of the Lord’s Prayer: Deliver us from evil. Although they are few words, they were pronounced by Jesus, and therefore they deserve our attention and careful meditation.
Many people have wondered what evil is and also why there is evil in the world.
It does not take much study to realize that evil is in the world in two ways: as natural calamities and as the bad actions of us, of human beings.
The other question is more difficult. Why there is evil in the world? There are many people who are saddened, despair, or even wish for death, when evil, especially in the form of pain and suffering, comes into their lives or to the people they love.
Only God himself, sending Christ to undergo the Passion and Resurrection, gives us an answer about the meaning of suffering. And that response is not made up of words, but of his gesture of supreme generosity, giving his Son for the salvation of those who have not always loved him as Father.
But today we want to pay special attention to what Jesus invites us to say with those final words of the Lord’s Prayer: Deliver us from evil.
If we have seen in the lives of so many good people that God has not delivered them from suffering or from experiencing temptation, what does it mean then that he delivers us from evil?
As always, in the New Testament we have the right answer. St. Paul tells us:
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens (Eph 6: 12). Angels have a personality, characteristic traits in their behavior, but the devil also has a typical way of being, a typical way of acting and behaving.
Imagine that you are a police detective and you have to investigate some crimes that are happening in your city. Maybe you start drawing conclusions after comparing several cases. For example, who the victims were, at what times and in what places the murders took place. What weapon was used by the criminal… The forensic police, as we have seen in the movies, or read in Sherlock Holmes’ stories, are getting to know more and more about the personality of the person who committed the crimes, for example whether he was a strong person or, most importantly, what the motive for the crime was.
An investigator at the crime scene may study characteristics such as shoe prints, fingerprints or DNA analysis or ballistic analysis and eventually identify the author of the crimes.
St. Paul is giving us good advice: know the strategies of the evil one, his personality, his way of acting, because -let us remember his words- more than fighting with flesh and blood, we are fighting against the rulers of this present darkness, the evil spirits.
Naturally, the greatest difficulty, as in detective stories, is that the criminal is in hiding. But we, at least, know his name. It is called the devil. As Pope Francis told us in an audience in 2016, the devil is not “a nice myth” (un lindo mito, in Spanish). He is behind every temptation. The Apostle Peter says that the evil one, the devil, prowls around us like a roaring lion, to devour us, and we ask God to deliver us. But to many people this seems exaggerated or purely symbolic, as a metaphor or symbol of the evil in the world. As a character in a French novel says: My dear brethren, do not ever forget, when you hear the progress of lights praised, that the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that they don’t exist! The evil is not some amorphous force but a personified evil, the Devil.
Let us see how the devil’s criminal act has two main characteristics: the weapon used is a lie and the motive for the crime is to achieve separation.
2. If God allows us to be tempted, how does He deliver us from evil?
The primary strategy of the devil is to deceive us. He is primarily a liar. The Book of Revelation (12: 9) says: The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. The strategy of the devil in bringing about temptation and evil is to deceive me, to put thoughts in my mind or feelings in my soul that are false. He lies to me about where happiness is best to be found.
We have to be aware that the devil’s lies are not logically false phrases or propositions. Usually, he helps us self-deceive. Yes, self-deception is not diabolical, but psychological, but the devil uses it very effectively to separate us from God and from our neighbors.
You may remember the story of a group of people who were convinced by an extravagant psychic that the Earth would be destroyed by a cataclysmic flood on December 21, 1954. The faithful quit jobs, left spouses, and gave away money and possessions, in preparation for the arrival of a spaceship that would rescue them. When the spaceship did not appear, and the flood did not happen, the group changed the narrative, and then changed it again. They convinced themselves that their clocks were wrong. When they recognized that their clocks were correct, they set a new time for the arrival of the spaceship. When that event failed to occur, they convinced themselves that God had chosen to spare the world at the last minute because of their good deeds.
This makes us smile (or maybe cry) but something similar happens to all of us. We want to defend our opinions and our desires, which is not necessarily bad, rather necessary at times, but the devil dazzles us and makes us believe that we have to push that defense of our judgments and our desires to the limit. Thus he makes us slaves, because we cannot hear God in the midst of all the noise in us.
This is how a division occurs within us. The Italian Nobel Prize-winning writer Luigi Pirandello captured this when he wrote: There is somebody who’s living my life. And I know nothing about him. An extreme example of this inner division is the mass murderer who lavishes affection on his dog.
How do we ask the Father to deliver us? Before going to the Garden of Olives, Jesus prays: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one…. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (Jn 17: 15-17). The primary strategy of the evil one is deceit. This explains why Jesus asks the Father to make us holy in the truth; more specifically, by his word. Not just vague truth, or abstract truth, but his opinion, his judgment, what he thinks of me. In prayer, in the Eucharist and in reading the Gospel, he sheds light on my life that allows me to see how I really am and how God dreams of me.
This is confirmed by the Parable of the Sower, where Jesus tells us how the Word of God and the devil are really opposites and in us they are in permanent conflict: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand, the evil one comes and snatches away the word. Satan, means “the adversary.”
An example. From something as important and necessary as knowledge or material progress, the devil can fabricate a lie.
As much as some might wish to believe in the myth of progress, that the world is continually getting better as we become more educated, a close look around the world tells us that this just is not so. There are still wars, envy, oppression, hatred, starvation, murder, rape, and so on. Just turn on the nightly news or open your news feed online and you are slapped in the face by the evil and suffering of the world.
On the other hand, we also have the ideology and myth of success, of wellbeing, that tells us: God is just a fiction, he only robs us of our time and of our enjoyment of life Don’t bother with him! Just try to squeeze as much out of life as you can. The Our Father, and this petition in particular is telling us that it is only when you have lost God that you have lost everything; then you are nothing but a random product of evolution.
Another lie of the devil, even deeper and more personal, is the reason why he is also called “the accuser of the brethren” (Acts 12:10). He accuses us of our sins before God. Satan doesn’t want God to extend grace and forgiveness to us, nor does He want us to receive God’s grace. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the devil would present God a list of our sins. Satan wants to remind us of our failures and sins and convince us that they we not worthy to be in the family of God. Satan wants us to be fearful and doubt our salvation.
This doubt can come in two forms: the first, thinking that there are too many of my faults and not enough of my strength and I believe that God is not going to help me…and the second I believe that I do NOT need to change, that what I am doing is not a sin. The first form of this accusation can be called discouragement, tiredness or despair. The second is another form of accusation: the devil shows God how I am identified with my sin…and therefore I am not willing to accept divine grace. Typically, this leads me to justification of almost everything: arrogance, lies, comfort… It is a real accusation- The devil is saying to God: Look, he doesn’t want to listen to you. To which God is forced to respond by cutting off his dialogue with me because, under these circumstances… I am not capable of listening.
The Lie and the Division. These are the two distinctive marks, the two seeds sown by the evil one. When we declare that the powers of darkness will not prevail over the Church, we are recognizing that God delivers us from evil always and that He has done so throughout the centuries and in the soul of every person.
Let us remember that it was Jesus himself who said: The powers of darkness will not prevail over the Church (Mt 16: 18) because one of the typical effects of the Evil One is precisely division within the ecclesial community. Divisions are, in fact, a symptom of the power of sin, which continues to act in the members of the Church even after redemption.
We have spoken before about the division that the devil tries to create in each one of us, inside me and inside you. But we also see how he pushes the division among us, promoting distrust, envy and fear that separate us. These divisions are much more frightening than persecution, for they attack the last will of Christ for us, which He asked with tears from our heavenly Father: That they may be one.
Bad is mixed with the good. Individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests and not to those of others. Thus it happens that the world and the Church cease to be places for the true brotherhood. The enemy has planted weeds alongside the wheat within our culture, our thoughts and our mission.
The Church, our families and our faith communities suffer their greatest damage from the division which pollutes the Christian life of their members, damaging the integrity of the mystical Body, weakening our capacity for prophecy and witness, obscuring the beauty of the gift of faith.
In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul wonders: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? We know that the devil cannot convince God to give up on or abandon us; nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom 8: 39). But we have the sad option of not asking for help, or pronouncing this request of the Our Father, deliver us from evil, without looking at our heart and seeing that it is always, always necessary.
Our petition has already been granted: God does not leave us on our own, but in Jesus he manifests himself as the “God-with-us” up to ultimate consequences. He is with us he is with us in joy; he is with us in trials; he is with us in sorrow; he is with us when we sin. But he is always with us, because he is Father and cannot abandon us.
Pope Benedict, in reflecting on the Our Father quotes St. Cyprian who says: When we say ‘deliver us from evil,’ then there is nothing further left for us to ask. Once we have asked for and obtained protection against evil, we are safely sheltered against everything the world and Satan can contrive. What could the world make you fear if you are protected in the world by God himself?
And indeed, this final request of the Lord’s Prayer is so important that, in celebrating the Eucharist, we say at the end of the Our Father:
Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
This embolism is an extension of the final petition of the Our Father and shows its humanity, as we ask the Lord to free from evil not only ourselves, but the many individuals and peoples that suffer from the tribulations that make life almost unbearable we pray in communion with the Church for the deliverance of the entire human family. We may also see this extension of the final petition as an examination of conscience for ourselves, as an appeal to collaborate in breaking the predominance of the many “evils” The central point is that “we be freed from sins”, that we recognize the devil as the quintessence of “evils’ and that our gaze may never be diverted from the living God.
Our heavenly Father gives us peace with his presence; he gives us forgiveness, but we must ask: deliver us from evil, in order to make the most of his forgiveness and to confirm that we need him, that we want his help. May these be words that we always pronounce with confidence and gratitude: Deliver us from evil.
Two Points for Personal Reflection.
1. We all have some passion that separates us from others. But sometimes the devil’s hand fuels that fire with new strength. Have I ever noticed how that passion has been nurtured, promoted and grown in surprising ways, becoming a barrier between me and others?
2. At which moments do I think the devil has managed to deceive me, by blurring my eyes? In the way I see my fellow men? By making me believe that the difficulties, my sins, my limitations, are invincible? Perhaps by turning my gaze away from my defects and making me pay attention to the defects of others?
Fr. Luis CASASUS M.Id
Motus Christi May 03, 2020