Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sympathy for the Devil: What is confusing you is the nature of my game

GOSPEL MK 1:21-28
Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;  he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are? The Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Sympathy for the Devil:

Have you ever noticed how our Lord behaves towards evil spirits? By worldly standards he is rude, curt and commanding. In no way is he sympathetic towards the devil. This is exactly what exorcists are trained to do when it is discerned that a person is possessed by one or more evil spirits. In fact, the 1952 rite of exorcism gives the following instructions:

Let the priest pronounce the exorcism in a commanding and authoritative voice, and at the same time with great confidence, humility, and fervor…with his intention fixed on God, whom he should entreat with firm faith and in all humility. And if he is all the more grievously tormented, he ought to bear this patiently, never doubting the divine assistance.

Every exorcist knows that the demons or the evil spirits will not willingly vacate. That is why the rite prescribes the following: “He [the priest] will pay attention as to what words in particular cause the evil spirits to tremble, repeating them the more frequently.” Repeating them frequently! If victory over the devil is to be had, such “unkindness” is necessary! Any kind of sympathy or letting up could spell disaster. Therefore, the disposition of Our Lord and church-appointed exorcist’s, as it pertains to the evil, the devil and even sin itself should be that of the clergy, the evangelist, the teacher and parents as well. Mercy and sympathy does not apply to sin and evil. Mercy and sympathy only applies only applies to sinners, to people, to the soul itself.

Over the last fifty years or so, many of us who follow Christ have lost sight what it means to be relentless against sin and evil while at the same time forgiving and loving the sinner. We have been pretty good with the latter but as with the former, not so good.

The bigot struggles with the opposite problem that Christians struggle with today. The bigot takes his hatred for the sin and transfers them to the sinner. He ends up hating both. Not good! But we, who are refined and polite, take our affections and love for the sinner and then transfer them to the sin. As result, we end up having sympathy for both. This too is not good! With this sympathy for evil and the devil we are left ourselves defenseless. In fact, in 1972 Pope Paul VI had complained that the smoke of Satan had entered into the Church. With this smoke came moral and spiritual confusion.

Just four years earlier in 1968- right at the height of the Sexual Revolution–the Rolling Stones came out with a song called Sympathy for the Devil. You may be surprised to know that the lyrics to this song makes for a good theological piece on how the Devil thinks. But this is an understatement. I should say it is masterful in its portrayal of the devil’s tactics and how scores of Christians have been "puzzled over the nature of his game." The reason for this is due to Devil's methods of speaking half-truths here and speaking a little truth there.

As we examine the shrewd nature of this song, keep in mind that in order to perform a successful exorcism, the exorcist must force the evil spirit to reveal its name. Knowing the name of the demon gives the exorcist authority to cast it out of the victim. Also note that the refrain for Sympathy for the Devil, is“Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.” Satan knows that to know his name and the nature of his game is a means of power over him.

In this excerpt, I provided “most” of the lyrics to Sympathy for the Devil. It reveals, in part, what has happened during these last fifty years and why evil has advanced with great success:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a generals rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank…

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame

Satan is a master at boasting and bluffs. His success results from skillfully employing half-truths. For instance, the Serpent tempted Eve by asking her,“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden?’”But God did not command, “You shall not eat from ‘any’ of the trees in the garden.” Instead, the Lord forbade Adam and Eve to eat from only one tree- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And when Eve reminded the Serpent that God had promised that death would follow if she ate of the forbidden fruit, again, he retorted: “You certainly will not die!” Indeed, to an extent he was right, but only to a certain extent. The first couple would not die immediately upon eating the forbidden fruit. But death and suffering would enter into the world through their sin of disobedience.

Later, when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, again, he employed half-truths. Knowing, at the very least, that Jesus was a holy man, Satan cited Scripture in order to make a case that God protects his chosen servants. That, again, is true. But it certainly does not mean that we are to test God by jumping off of the side of a building or, in our Lord’s case, the side of the Temple. Furthermore, the Devil promised Jesus if he were to worship him, he would give him all the kingdoms of the world. But the kingdoms of the world were not the Devil’s to give. Besides, the Devil was only mimicking a promise God the Father made to His Son in the Psalms: "I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, 'You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask it of me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and, as your possession, the ends of the earth.'" (Psalm 2:7-8) Satan was bluffing. The Lord knew it and displayed his usual rudeness to the Evil One by saying, "Get away Satan!"

Back to the song, Sympathy for the Devil: Whether or not this song was inspired by a sinister motive or some spiritual principle, I do not know. All I know is that Lucifer or the Devil, as portrayed in the song, boasts about and bluffs about the very things that are unfolding today.

To begin with, notice that, in the song, the Devil claims that Jesus had his moment of doubt and pain. Again, Christ did have his pain but as a Divine Person he never had a doubt about his sacrifice. But, did the devil seal his fate? Yes, to an extent, but only with God’s permission. Christ’s death was“sealed” only because he had first determined to lay down his life to ransom souls. Christ was a willing Victim of Sacrifice.

The Sympathy for the Devil references recent historical events in the 20th century. For instance, in 1917 Our Lady of Fatima had warned about Russia spreading her errors throughout the world. In St. Petersburg, the capitol of Russia, during that same year, the Bolshevik Revolution which championed communism broke out. The Tsar, who was Nicholas II, and his family, eventually were murdered in cold blood by revolutionaries. Anastasia, as many know, was the daughter of the Tsar and was believed to have survived this massacre. It is questionable if that indeed was the case. In any case, what happened in St. Petersburg had global significance. Millions upon millions would suffer and die from the aftermath of this godless, communistic uprising.

And what about the Blitzkrieg? This, of course, is a reference to Germany’s invasions into countries like Poland and Russia during World War II. This ruthless military campaign took place during the holocaust “while the bodies stank.” The stories that came out of the labor camps in Siberia, and the death camps in Auschwitz and Dachau simply horrified the world. With the end of World War II people said, “Never again!” Unfortunately, too many people believed that the evil of inhumanity and despotism were a thing of the past, water under the bridge, if you will.

As two decades passed, Christianity seemed to be getting stronger. With a kind of optimism lingering in the air in the early 1960’s, Catholics were not prepared for what would be a reawakening of the culture of death in Western pop-culture; the same culture that was manifested so strongly in the Russian gulags and Germany’s concentration camps. It overflowed, as if beneath the surface, only to manifest itself in the Sexual Revolution. As such, the world would never be the same again.

And now we come to the most important consideration of Sympathy for the Devil: If, out of politeness or being refined, Christians do not call out the Devil by name, say that he exists or specify with clarity what his works are, then we can hardly cast him out of society. Unfortunately, it is considered to be bad manners for pastors, evangelists and teachers to denounce the Devil and all his works. To specifically mention sins such as fornication, cohabitation, divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality- either from the pulpit on Sundays or in the public square –is a social form of impoliteness. Yet, the bluff the Devil boasts about in the refrain of this song is the very thing that has confused us. Christians fear to speak the truth even if doing so means saving their soul; this, all because we wish not to offend. Sparing feelings is more important than saving souls among confused Christians. “But what is puzzling you is the nature of my game.”

But what is the bluff and what is nature of his game? Answer: To get us to feel sorry for him and, of course, for evil itself. Now, to be sure, people in general are not feeling sorry for the Devil as such, but they are quite sympathetic to evil men, sin and vice. Our government, our legal system, the entertainment industry, the news media, our public schools and even Christians hold up undeserving people in the highest esteem all in the name of love and not being judgmental.

Almost a year ago, for instance, with the death of Kim Jong-il, dictator of North Korea, the news media and politicians lauded his intelligence and political genius. This is just one of countless examples. And on the flipside of this sympathy for evil men is the hatred shown for the good and the virtuous. A politician who is pro-life and an advocate for the sanctity of marriage will be more vilified by the media than the likes of Kim Jong-il himself.

“Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints, as heads is tails, just call me Lucifer because I'm in need of some restraint.”

Masterfully, the Devil has helped us to turn things upside down. As stated, this inversion of morality and spirituality has even affected the people of God. Very few of us have escaped from his smoke of confusion. And reason why he is in need of some restraint has a lot to do with him being busy; busier than he has ever been.

Finally, we’ve come to the grand finale at the end of the song. Just as the Devil bluffed Eve in the Garden of Eden and just as he tried to bluff Jesus Christ in the desert, he continues to bluff the human race. In Sympathy for the Devil he pleads the following: “So if you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse [i.e. polite manners] or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah!”

Again, a very good use of half-truths. The fact is “if” we show the Devil courtesy, sympathy and taste he will lay our soul to waste!! He has bluffed many of us with this and we have fallen for it. Ask yourself this question: When we hear Jesus ordering the evil spirit with the words, "Quiet! Come out of him!" and when we hear that this evil spirit caused the man in the synagogue to convulse and cry out as the result of his command, can we not see ourselves doing the same thing as it regards to evil in our world? Or are we so refined and so well-learned in our polite manners that we are incapable of confronting evil and enduring its protest? If we are, then we need to make rudeness into a virtue again. After all, our Lord certainly wasn’t polite all the time, especially when it came to evil men, obstinate sinners and the Devil himself. With the Pharisees and even with the Apostles themselves he could be stern and commanding as well.

If, by chance, you’re interested in who the Devil will blame when we meet our Maker, Lucifer (at least in this song) tells us at the end of Sympathy for the Devil.

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame!

We’re to blame. On this point he is correct. The only one who can send a person’s soul to hell is the person himself. God does not send us. Not even the Devil sends.

Every soul is the object of a great contest between God and the Devil. We choose- and no else –who we will spend eternity with. So yes, for those people who choose hell, they are to blame. This is why Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 urged Catholics to make spiritual sacrifices for their conversion.

To conclude, the Devil has puzzled many in the world with his game. There is no shortage of sympathy for him, to be sure. However, it was reported that on October 13th, 1884 (33 years before the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima), Pope Leo XIII had a revelation of Satan challenging God that he would destroy his Church. To make a long story short, God gave Satan about a hundred years to accomplish this. At the end of this mystical experience, Leo XIII had a vision of St. Michael conquering the Evil One. In fact, when all is said and done, the two instruments Christ will use to conquer the Dragon will be the Woman Clothed with the Sun and Saint Michael (cf. Rev. 12). Indeed, every game comes to an end. Even Lucifer’s.