The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing and said to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Jesus said, “Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.” (From Saturday’s Gospel reading)
Reflection for Saturday: What can we do about demons in the Church?
Last week, after Mass, I was chatting with a group of parishioners when we were approached by a very old lady, in her nineties, who with a worried face asked us: “Did you see everything that is happening with the Pope? My God, I’m scared! Where will we go? The Church is being destroyed, what are we going to do? “
One of the ladies from the group started to criticize Pope Francis very strongly, with a pessimistic and angry attitude. She was so enthusiastic that she didn’t realize that tears had formed in the old lady’s eyes. My husband and I immediately started to chat with the old lady, explaining to her that it would turn out good because God is in control of everything and he cares about his children. We told her that she had to fix her eyes on Jesus and on no one else, and that Jesus’ Enemy wants to destroy the Church but that would never happen because our Lord already defeated him on the Cross.
After 45 minutes of showing her that she had nothing to fear, she calmed down and smiled. Slowly, she looked for her family and left.
The lady who had started criticizing the Pope looked at us worriedly and said: “I think we have to be careful with what we say and in front of whom we say it.”
The devil has been working hard to destroy the Church from within. Understand this clearly: the terrible stuff that’s been happening is demonic — the sexual sins and cover-ups and the “brotherhood of priests” pressuring many good priests to be silent about it. It’s world-wide and we’re discovering how systemic it is, like sepsis infecting the whole body with bad bacteria that kills. But this is the Body of Christ! No matter how hard the devil tries to destroy it, Jesus has already risen from the dead. We the Church are the resurrected Body of Christ on earth, not the dying body.
But what can we do about the demons in the Church?
Before I go any further, I’d like you to read the letter by Ralph Martin, president of the Catholic evangelization organization Renewal Ministries. This is probably the most important letter of everything that I’ve seen. My comments will make more sense if you first read this:
“As Pope Benedict XVI wrote when he was a young priest, the Church will have to become smaller and more purified before it can again be a light to the world. The Church is going through a radical purification under the chastising hand of God, but already we can see a remnant of fervent renewal appearing all over the world, which is a sign indeed of hope and the renewal to come.” (Ralph Martin)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1994, prophetically speaks of the same phenomenon.
Paragraph 671: Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.”
Paragraph 675: Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.
Paragraph 677 (emphasis mine): The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.
I don’t know if we’re in the final trial, but I do believe what scriptures say about how there is no resurrection without a crucifixion, no new life without the seed first falling to the ground to die, no unity with Christ without joining him in his death (instead of just in his resurrection glory, which is what I surely prefer).
We are suffering the persecution that goes with unveiling the “mystery of iniquity”. I’m personally familiar with the persecution that results from stopping the sins of priests. During the founding years of Good News Ministries, we lost our good reputation locally because of this. But God turns everything to good, and the death of our local activities gave life to our internet activities, which is why you’re receiving ministry from us today.
So, what do we do about the demons in the Church?
One year, the Lord showed me the power of the Rosary for overcoming evil in the Church. Jesus repeatedly put me into happenstances where I learned details about a friend’s priest that most people never saw. It was like gathering military intelligence before waging war.
When the parish staff cried out for help and got none (and in one case got fired), my friend and I could not sit idly by. We took into hand our best weapon: the Rosary. We committed to praying it every morning after daily Mass while walking the perimeter of the parish campus. We did this rosary walk in sunshine and rain, cold and heat, until the battle was won. We lovingly prayed for the priest’s soul, hoping he would repent, and we prayed that if that didn’t happen, the parish would get a new pastor of God’s own choosing.
The parish got a new priest, a holy priest, a wonderful priest who brought healing.
Ever since my first experience with a priest who was lustful, I’ve proclaimed in my Good News Reflections and other writings that abuses in the vocation of the priesthood go beyond the crimes of molesting children. I’ve warned about “wolves in shepherd’s clothing”. I’ve bemoaned how this is anti-evangelization, which makes the sin 1000 times worse. And I prophesied that God was going to purge his Church.
Purging is painful. But it leads to a renewal of life that’s far better. It is a time when every Catholic faces why they belong to the Church, why they go to Mass, and why they support their parish financially. Is it because Jesus is truly their Lord? Is their focus on Christ? Do they know Who they receive in the Eucharist? Do they understand the value of belonging to a community of believers? If not, they will leave.
“The Church will have to become smaller and more purified before it can again be a light to the world.”
This raises the question: Why are we not a light to the world already?
The demons in the Church came first to the laity, because our priests were laity first. The demonic strategy has been to darken our light by corrupting our idea of what is holy and what is sinful. Moral relativism is the fertile soil that nurtures the growth of the immorality we’re complaining about in our sinful shepherds.
Do we really want a Church filled with holy priests? Then we ourselves must first become holy and spread that holiness throughout the Church by whatever means the Lord has gifted us to do. It begins with examining our consciences and identifying the ways we have fallen into sin by believing it’s not sin.