Best Way to Disempower Evil: Look at it, See It

Best Way to Disempower Evil: Look at it, See It

Danger vibes. Handsome smart evil man wearing an expensive suit looking classy while holding a gun

Best way to disempower evil: Look at it

Best way to disempower evil: Look at it

Bishop Robert Barron’s sermon for the first Sunday of Lent- Three Levels of Temptation– is on St. Luke’s account of the temptations of Christ in the desert. Within the first few minutes of his homily, he says, “The best way to disempower evil: to look at it, to see it.”

The declaration is a simple one. We could even say it’s self-evident. And yet, the baldness of those six words sears, pierces, plunges. Hence impelling this piece because the corollary is also evident: we empower evil by refusing to look at it. Refusing to see it.

Ours is a culture, more accurately, a world, that not only refuses to look and see evil, but we also deafen ourselves to it by renaming it. The reality of the thing is obscured through use of mild, vague and indirect labels-euphemisms. These are only a few examples, for the list is endless:

  • Consensual sex between unmarried adults is defined as fornication. And yet, almost half of us cohabite. Whether between the same sex or both sex is immaterial, living together has become the norm. The vice of fornication is on no one’s lips, even our clergy.
  • St. Paul’s definition of the body as a temple of the holy spirit is considered outmoded, even unhealthy. How to pleasure ourselves sexually is now being taught to midde-schoolers.
  • Phrases like “women’s health” and “personal choice” cloak the sin of abortion.
  • The words are critical because the change deceitfully attracts and confuses the minds and hearts of our youth. And empowers evil.
  • Pleasure morphs into business, the business of sin.
  • Routinely, we break the third commandment, taking the holy name of God in vain in our speech, conversation and writing.

I imagine, therefore, that I’m not the only one for whom this Lent “feels different.”

Thorns Grow with Song

It’s time to rend our hearts and look inside

The chambered will, into the voices in

The vein: thorns grow with song.  A hope applied

With mercy calls the tuner of the tidal

Pull of the soul, brings rest, denying sin

It’s time. To rend our hearts and look inside

Reveals a bramble, canes of prickly pride

That strangle sacrifice, and so, within,

The vain thorns grow. With song, a hope applied

Again, small notes of spring erupt and chide

The choking vine. They scourge the ego’s skin.

It’s time to rend our hearts and look. Inside

We need to file the points where barbs collide,

To cauterize, to stem the blood and pin

The vein. Thorns grow.  With song, a hope. Applied

Again, confessed again, relief supplied

In more small notes, repentances begin.

It’s time to rend our hearts and look inside

The vein: thorns grow with song, a hope applied.

We’ve reached the second Sunday of Lent.

And these mercy-saturated days seem to be flying by and my fear that I’m not fasting or praying or giving enough deepens. Afraid that these forty days will pass without my changing the habits of my sins.

Maura Harrison’s poem above expresses the hopes and longings of our Lenten hearts and minds. We leave confession full of contrition and determination to stop these repeated sins. None of us leaves thinking that we’ll fall again into the same sins of gossip, impatience, thoughtlessness, anger…

Yes, we need to rend our hearts, to enter the desert with the Lord. Bishop Barron reminds that we need the desert to quiet the distractions, to “look inside the chambered will” and look and see the thorns to assure that nothing will obscure God’s plan for us.

But the reality is that all too often, I am back in the confessional, filled with self-disgust…”Again I am here, confessing the same sins…”

Not long ago, I prayed Christine Watkins’ Mary’s Mantle Consecration: A Spiritual Retreat for Heaven’s Help. Forty days filled with fasting, prayer and excellent videos. And I was filled with delight when it ended on The Assumption of Mary.

But on the late afternoon of that fortieth day, I was presented with unexpected interruptions to my plans and fell into anger, frustration and resentment. And was back at confession, “I didn’t even make it past the end of this retreat!”

Why?

I had not considered the “habits of my sins.” The phrase is one I’ve learned from Fr. Casey Cole in his excellent video: Overcoming Vices and Adopting Virtues. Listening to the young friar decide to stay away from confession for nine months because he was so intent on fixing his sins is both funny and familiar because I do it all the time.

What are the “habits” of sin?

My sins-vices- are the opposite of my gifts. As well, of course, as the attitudes and practices of a lifetime.

My ability to focus, concentrate and persist to the point of losing myself in what I am studying is both blessing and curse. It means that writing stuff like this-articles and books hopefully useful for others- gives me joy. While researching and writing, I get to clarify-challenge- what I think, believe. And with each article, each book, I learn.

But it also means that interruptions are unwelcome- especially when on a deadline. Actually not just unwelcome but disliked.

I mostly love deadlines…

Like that afternoon when I was interrupted from chasing my deadline. Resulting in my throwing a snit- behaving exactly the opposite of how I want to: unloving, rude, thoughtless, spiteful.

Furthermore, since my routine is awakening very early-three or four in the morning, by late afternoon, I’m tired. And when tired, irritable, I’m vulnerable to the enemy who knows, far better than I, my weaknesses.

Last Sunday’s Gospel tells us that the devil did not show until after Jesus had fasted from food and water for forty days. Only then did he try the three levels of temptations when He was weakened. ” And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

The topography is crucial, those three levels of temptation highly instuctive for us as we root through our hearts to On the desert floor lies the tempation of physical satisfation-turn the stones into bread. Higher up, power.

And the highest? Honor and glory. ” “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

It’s time to…

…To rend our hearts and look inside

Reveals a bramble, canes of prickly pride

That strangle sacrifice, and so, within,

The vain thorns grow. With song, a hope applied

Again, small notes of spring erupt and chide

The choking vine. They scourge the ego’s skin.

It’s time to rend our hearts and look. Inside

We need to file the points where barbs collide,

To cauterize, to stem the blood and pin

The vein. Thorns grow.  With song, a hope. Applied

Again, confessed again, relief supplied

In more small notes, repentances begin.

It’s time to learn the habits of our sins. And develop the habit of begging for the grace to do change them.

2 Comments

  1. Duane Sincerbox says:

    I read most of what you write. I enjoy it. I just don’t have time to set down and make comments. Keep up the excellent work, and thank you.
    Duane.

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