January 31, 2011 - Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest

Modern people can be snobs about time. We consider a phone made 2 years ago outdated. A computer from last century is completely useless. We also consider people in olden days to have been stupid. There is a cultural presumption that anyone who lived more than a few hundred years ago had the intelligence of a small child. We hear stories like our Gospel today, and there is a part of us, even us believers, that wants to dismiss the story, that wants to explain the story away. How many people, when they hear the story of a man possessed by thousands of demons, want to do an amateur mental health evaluation on a man who lived 2000 years ago?

If we assume for a moment that the world 2000 years ago was very different from ours, that it was full of all sorts of magic and demons, perhaps even a dragon or two flying around, if we assume, in short, that the ancients who described the world around them were not inclined to make up  and then believe nonsensical stories, what should we expect? Jesus, the Son of God, went around in great power and cast out many demons. He gave his disciples power to cast out demons. He gave his Church baptism and Holy Water to protect us from the power of demons. He made it so that demons, who used to be very common, are now not so common, at least in the Christian parts of the world.

To believe anything else is to believe that much of Jesus’ work and the work of the early Church was useless and silly. In reality, it was just very well accomplished. It is important to see the world in this way, not only so that we might have a bit more respect for the intellect of our ancestors, but also so that we might be on guard against these demons. Only small children believe that closing their eyes makes them invisible; we must go into this battle with our eyes wide open. We have been given powerful weapons in Holy Water, in the Cross, in the Sign of the Cross, but in arrogant ignorance people play with the weapons of our enemies as if they were toys: Ouija boards, horoscopes, yoga, psychics, witchcraft, and many other things. They laugh at them and play with them, not understanding that evil is still out there trying to make a comeback.