Last Thursday and Friday, I attended two talks conducted by His Lordship the Rt Rev Anthony Lee, Bishop of Miri, Sarawak. The Bishop is the Episcopal President of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei as well as the Episcopal President of the Regional Liturgical Commission.
The talks, held at my parish church of the Immaculate Conception, Pulau Tikus, were on the topic of The Power of Jesus to Heal and Deliver. The opening night, so to speak, saw the attendance of His Lordship, the Rt Rev Antony Selvanayagam, the Bishop of Penang, His Grace, the Most Rev. Anthony Soter Fernandez, the Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur, Rev Fr. Edwin Paul, Rector of the College General Major Seminary, Rev Fr. Gerard Theraviam, Professor of Sacred Scripture at the College and several seminarians hosted by Rev Fr. Francis Xavier, our parish priest. Many of the attendees were involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal but there was also a healthy attendance from run of the mill or rather Joe-in-the-pew Catholics like yours truly. (For those of you who were counting, that's 3 bishops named Anthony[or Antony] under one roof)
The good Bishop delivered his talks powerfully, with humour and and refreshing candour. Several aspects of his talk struck me as being very relevant in the context of the Church today. Satanism is on the rise in Europe and America. Satanic worship is increasing while the worship of the One God was falling everywhere in the Western world as church attendance drops. Satan, however is gaining many committed and zealous converts.
Many bishops, priests, religious, catechists, the so called scholarly Catholics etc really do not believe in the existence of the Devil. Contrary to the teaching of the Church, Satan to them is not a personal, evil and supernatural Being, who together with his fallen angels prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls and constantly waging an unseen spiritual war. Hell, Satan, fallen angels, evil spirits, demonic possession, exorcism, deliverance etc. are remnants of a superstitious, ignorant(and quite frankly, to them, embarrassing) darker age of Catholicism that they would rather leave behind "in the Spirit of Vatican II". Its this modernizing spirit that dulled the weapons of the Church and weakened her spiritual arsenal against the snares of Satan. The minor exorcism at Baptism was removed as was the Prayer to St Michael the Archangel that was prayed after the Tridentine Mass, composed by Pope Leo XIII after his vision of Satanic forces attacking the Church. They would rather think of Satan as an impersonal force or the evil that is within if they even believe in his existence at all.
Bishop Lee sounded a much needed wake-up call to us who are in blissful ignorance. Like he said, "You might not believe in the Devil but the Devil believes in you!". After so many years of not hearing about Hell and Satan, many were lulled into a false sense of security. Satan's great PR campaign had succeeded. Many now, even in the pinnacles of the hierarchy, do not believe that he exists. The Prince of Darkness could therefore move about freely seeking the damnation of many souls.
The Bishop shared about his encounters with the Evil One and how many were unsuspectingly opening themselves up to Satan's attacks. One particularly chilling story revolved around a woman the Bishop delivered after a chance encounter in Shanghai. The poor woman had been possessed by an evil spirit for 40 years after being offered up by her mother as a child. He then spoke of the danger of invoking idols, asking spirits for favours and offering one's soul for material riches. By utilizing examples and anecdotes, the many ways that Satan and his minions gained entry into an unwary soul were revealed. The reality of Satan and his unceasing war against man was laid bare.
Another important aspect that the Bishop stressed was the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ must be Lord over our lives. He must be Lord over our whole life, each and every part of it. We must give ourselves fully to the Lord Jesus, our whole mind, body and soul. This is the best way to defeat Satan and his minions. Alone, we are weak against the vast thrones and dominions, the powers and principalities in the heavenly places that are marshalled against us. Its only through Jesus Christ, who has already won the victory for us will we ever hope to triumph and prevail. If the power of the Holy Spirits fills us up totally and completely, then there will be no space left for Satan.
The Bishop then cautioned against having an unbalanced approach. On the other end of the scale, there were many, especially among the Fundamentalist Pentecostals that put too much stress on the work of Satan that each person's personal accountability for sin is minimized altogether and every evil deed and every sin is blamed on Satan. Each one of us must be personally accountable for our own sins and take responsibility for our failings and faults. Yes, Satan tempts, but we are empowered by Jesus Christ to stand up against him and renounce him and all his works.
We must put on the whole armour of God should we want to have a fighting chance. We must don the whole armor of God so that we may be able to stand firm against the Devil's wiles. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual powers in the heavenly places. For this reason, we must take up the whole armor of God so that we may be able to take a stand on that evil day. We can only stand firm, therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around our waist, the truth of the Gospel so that we are always prepared for battle just as the belt fastens the tunic so that the soldier is ready to fight. We must put on the breastplate of righteousness, to protect our hearts against temptation. We must put shoes on our feet so that we are ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace. In addition to all of these, we must take up the shield of faith, with which we will be able to put out and defend against all the flaming arrows of the Evil One, as Faith repels Satan and gives us the confidence in the Power of God so say no to him and cast him out in Jesus name. We must also put on the Helmet of Salvation which is Jesus Christ. The helmet protects the head and so we must always have Jesus in our minds and acknowledge Jesus as our only Lord and Saviour and let him be Lord of our whole lives.
Finally, after having protected ourselves against the wiles of the Enemy, let us take up the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. With the Word of God on our lips and engraved on our minds and hearts we can deal Satan a great blow in the name of Jesus. Its the Word of God Incarnate, Jesus Himself that has defeated Satan and its the Word of God consigned to human words, the Scriptures that is our great weapon against the power of darkness that everyday threatens to engulf us. By the power and light of His Word, we can prevail.
We must stand up to Satan, by the Power of Jesus! It is Jesus that heals, Jesus that delivers! Its only through Jesus that we can cast out Satan and all his minions. Its our personal responsibility to be aware of the influence of Satan wherever it may be found, in the occult symbols, satanic music, pagan superstition, necromancy, etc. Its our responsibility to pray for the deliverance of all those bound by Satan. Its our responsibility to pray for the salvation of the souls of our loved ones, family and friends. Its also our responsibility to be aware of our own selves and the state of our souls, our spiritual and emotional wounds and our hurts and desires that can be the weak point of entry that Satan is looking for to drag us into ruin.
May God help us, His children in our spiritual battles. May we always acknowledge our creatureliness and helplessness before Him Who is Almighty. May we acknowledge our weakness against the tremendous forces that are arrayed against us as we wage a constant, unending spiritual battle for our souls. May we always cry out to Him, our Shepherd, to defend us in our distress He who alone is our Rock and our Salvation. In all our trials, let us never despair for the battle has already been won. Let us take comfort in the firm knowledge that Victory belongs to the Lord.
To Him be the Glory for ever and ever.