Saturday, July 06, 2013

The invisible and visible

Today the Gospel reading in the Catholic Church is from Luke 1, 1-12, 17-20. Yeah, it was sort of long, so I'll summarize...

Jesus sends 72 followers out as an advance team to every place that Jesus was planning to visit. He gave them specific instructions and bid them "go on your way".

They "returned rejoicing" and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name." Jesus told them that "I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions."

The current pastor at the church, Fr. Mike, is a young man, in his late 20's or early 30's. He started his homily sheepishly, sort of like he was working it out in his head and deciding how to begin.

He recalled an incident that happened when he had been ordained a priest for about six months. The pastor at that time called him into the office and gave him a piece of paper with a phone number. The older priest said it would be good for Fr. Mike's ministry and that he should call the family. They wanted their house to be blessed and a time was arranged. When Fr. Mike arrived he found that the children were off in school so it was just mom and dad. Then they told him that they wanted the house blessed because of odd things that were happening in the house.

Fr. Mike explained to us at that point in his ministry he was still forming his spirituality and that he did not have experience or belief in the sort of odd activity that they described.

He went on, again in his homily, to explain that as Catholics we have an understanding that there is the visible world in which we live and an invisible world that surrounds us. And that the two can interact. That our catechism teaches us that we are surrounded by saints, and our in our Creed we even state that we "believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible..."

Fr. Mike continued, saying that as he grew more experienced in his ministry that he encountered many other homes in which there were odd occurrences.

Then he talked about the abortion vote that was held in Texas a week or two ago. He said that, outside the courthouse, pro life groups gathered and sang songs of faith. The pro-choice group that gathered began trying to drown them out by shouting "Satan".

Fr. Mike explained that we might just dismiss that, but looking at it through the lens of the Catholic Church that we can view it differently than others might, and understand it to be an interaction between the invisible and visible worlds. That there was in fact evil, and that the devil made use of evil.

Then he told a story about a friend of his, another priest, who attended a Catholic conference. The priest was not a believer in the invisible. But during the conference, at a point where he was praying with eyes closed, he opened his eyes to see the guardian angel of every person attending the mass. Fr. Mike said his friend was so moved he began to cry and admitted that God had allowed him to see the saints we are surrounded by during the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I found the homily extraordinary for two reasons: first, in the nearly a decade that I have been Catholic, I have never encountered a priest who directly addressed the existence of the devil, let alone suggesting that some current event might have been in some way under the influence of the devil.

It was also the first time I had heard a priest directly address the concept of having the invisible world interact with the visible world outside of Biblical stories.

One final thought. The disciples, in the reading today, used the plural form of demon. In their travels as an advance team for Jesus, they encountered multiple instances of demons.

The invisible world and visible world interacting.

Peace and blessings.

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