•This is Presidents' Day Weekend (February 17-19). Students have Monday, February 19, off; they return Monday evening (for the Winter Sports Award Ceremony mentioned below).
•The next Moms' Prayer Meeting will be on Sunday, Feb. 25th at 7:00 PM, at St. Michael’s, in the Perpetual Help classroom.
•Reminder that the Sophomore Class Retreat is next Friday/Saturday (February 23-24). Fr. Miguel has already been in contact with the sophomores and their parents.
•Baseball season is beginning. Remember to turn in your sports fee.
•Archery Club is also beginning. The fee is $50.
In today’s Gospel we hear the well-known story of our Lord being tempted in the desert, where He fasted and prayed for forty days in preparation for His public ministry, which He was about to undertake. Like so many other episodes of Jesus’ life, which we hear recounted year after year, there is the tendency to just gloss over this passage without taking notice of what our Lord is trying to teach us; and what He does want us to learn in this story is necessary for our salvation, so we ought to give it some consideration.
The first thing that we must understand about this passage of the Gospel, as well as any other part which speaks about our Lord’s life, is that it is a true historical account—something which really happened. Despite what some modern so-called “scholars” might tell you, our Lord really and truly was tempted in the desert; there is no indication in the text that this was just a simple parable without an historical basis. And so, being a true account, we can ask the question, “Why would Jesus, true God and true Man, allow Himself to be tempted by the devil, especially given the fact that He, being God, cannot sin?”
The first reason is that He wanted us to know that Satan and other demons really do exist. They are spirits, fallen angels, who have been condemned to everlasting punishment in hell, but are allowed to roam about this world for a time, tempting man. It’s strange that today, when the presence of evil and sin is so widespread, so many want to deny this simple truth—a truth to which Sacred Scripture attests many times. In fact, the devil is mentioned 32 times in the New Testament; demons are mentioned 77 times in the New Testament and 12 in the Old; Satan is mentioned by name 14 times in the Old Testament and 32 in the New. These are not just expressions used to signify some kind of abstract evil presence; they are real creatures, creatures who hate mankind and will stop at nothing to lead us into sin. If you want to be defeated by the devil, just deny his existence; that’s exactly what he wants—a criminal works best when his victims deny his very presence.
It is this fact which led the late Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the chief exorcist of Rome, to write his book called An Exorcist Tells His Story. Having performed literally thousands of exorcisms, he was convinced that one of the gravest evils of our day is the complete denial of the existence of the devil—even by Catholics, and, may God have mercy, even by priests and bishops. And so, the first reason why our Lord allowed the devil to tempt Him is to show all future generations that that “father of lies” really does exist, and that in order to fight him off we must first be aware that he is alive and active in our world.
Having exposed the devil, Jesus next instructs us on how we must go about resisting the evil one’s attacks, how we must resist temptation. If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. The devil starts his attack with something small—“break your fast, use your power to work a little miracle,” he says to our Lord. In a similar way does he begin tempting us—with something small: a little gossip, a quick glance at something impure, a little lie, skipping our daily prayers. How often we hear, “After all, it’s only a venial sin. It’s not that bad.” But every sin is an offense against God, a tiny victory for the devil. And you can be sure that he who does not mind falling into venial sins will soon be committing ones which are mortal. To lead a good life you must resist temptation right from the very beginning; do not give the devil even an inch, or he will take all.
Then our Lord teaches us the importance of prayer and the sacraments, as well as the complete dependence we must have on God: You shall worship the Lord, your God…he says. No one can resist temptation, whether it come from the devil or from ourselves, without praying and frequenting the sacraments. The chief exorcist of Rome, again, makes the profound observation that the sacrament of Confession is more powerful than an exorcism, and that those in the state of mortal sin are worse off than those who suffer demonic possession; for, the possessed are not responsible for their actions, those in the state of mortal sin are.
Finally, Jesus teaches us that we must never tempt God: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. This is a grave warning to those who are inclined to think, “It doesn’t matter what kind of life I lead; I’ll just make sure I go to Confession right before I die.” As if they can demand God’s mercy whenever they want! Our good God, in fact, gives us plenty of chances to repent, plenty of opportunities for forgiveness…and yet the lines at the confessionals are always so small.
At the end of the 19th Century, Pope Leo XIII had a startling vision one day after celebrating Mass. He fell into a kind of day dream and then quickly ran out of the chapel and into his private office, where he remained for about a half an hour. He saw in the vision a whole host of demons attacking God’s Church, and was led to believe that the devil’s attacks and the sufferings of God’s children would be especially grave in the coming years. The holy father then, on the spot, composed the well-known (although not known enough) prayer to St. Michael—a prayer which he ordered all Catholics to say after every Mass. For whatever reason this practice has fallen by the wayside in the last forty years; perhaps it would not hurt to start praying it once again. It is, in fact, a prayer of exorcism which can be said by anyone. I would like to close with it:
St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits, who go about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
•For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.
•For all the students and families of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.
•For all faculty and staff of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.