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The Devil You Say

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

My dear encountered couples:

God uses even the devils to carry out his work. After Jesus finished with his teaching in the synagogue, this man who was possessed came in. The devil within him called out to Jesus, trying to give him a hard time. Jesus commanded the devil to come out of the man. This action of his amazed all who were there, and they spread the story to the people wherever they went. Even a devil helped Jesus to become known and sought after by the people.

We are all sinners. There is not one of us who can honestly say, “I have never committed a sin.” There is a place in Scripture that states, “Even the just man sins seven times a day.” Each sin is an act of evil. Evil acts are of the devil. By that I mean they are of evil quality as are his acts. He is not necessarily responsible for you doing them. You can’t use him for a scape goat saying, “The devil made me do it.” You must take the responsibility for what you do. However, your evil actions as well as those of devils can be used by God for good — as he used the devil in today’s gospel reading to spread his name and fame.

I never want to encourage you to judge anyone else. But as an example of what I mean, I would like you to imagine someone who seems to do more wrong things than right. Imagine a person who is very frustrating and irritating because he or she is the cause of more problems than a help in solving them. To live with that person, to associate with that person, to be patient and understanding with that person seems to require the qualities of a saint. And there might be times when you doubt that even a saint could put up with him - or her. Well, look at the situation this way. Maybe God allows, though never makes, that person to be irritating in order to help you and others become better people. Maybe that person is your chance at sainthood. The negative actions of that person in your life, driving you up a wall by the way he or she talks and acts, might be just what you need to uncover and expose to yourself what kind of person you really are, and to give you the chance to become a better one.

How patient are you? Never really know, do you? Until someone tests the limits of your patience with aggravation. How loving and caring are you? Never really know that either, do you? Until you find yourself being used over and over by a selfish and ungrateful person. Then you find out just how far you’ll go for what might seem to be a useless and hopeless case. Remember, Jesus went all the way to the cross for what seemed then, and might seem now, many useless and hopeless cases. Will you allow yourself to be crucified by a selfish, dishonest, irresponsible person who seems to care little or nothing at all about your happiness?

There are mothers and fathers who have thrown their children out of their homes, even out of their lives, because they are not willing to put up with the actions of those they gave birth to. How willing are you to let yourself and your life be affected by those who seem to be losers? By those who seem to care nothing for anyone but themselves? And to you it might seem clear they really don’t care even for the long—term good of themselves.

How far would you go before you rid your life of them? To the cross like Jesus? Or on the first bus out of town? People who are irritating, those who seem like devils, can be your chance for sainthood. Maybe you should think of being grateful for all of them.

In fact, we all should be grateful when anyone tests our limits of goodness. For it is at those times that we can become aware of how far we still have to go before becoming the quality required for permanent citizenship in heaven. They are gifts allowed by God to help us along the road to sainthood. The very difficulties caused by people in the life of Jesus shows us the depths of God’s love. If it weren’t for the devilish characters that Jesus met up with, much would be missing from the evidence shown us of God’s real care and concern for every human being. Nothing and no one was ever thrown outside the scope of his loving reach. He did his best over and over to lure people to a higher form of life, to the highest, with him and his Father.

Now, focus your gaze upon yourself. Here you don’t have to conjure up an imaginative person. Look at the real you. Are you the type I am talking about? How many people do you irritate and make life rough for? Do people run down an alley when they see you coming? Or sigh, “God give me strength!” when they answer the phone and it’s you? Are you one about whom it’s been said, “He’ll never amount to anything?” If so, I hope they are wrong. If you help them see themselves in the mirror you hold up for them by your annoying ways, you must at least amount to some good in this world. Maybe that’s not much for you to be proud of, but even the thorn bushes and cactus plants help to complete God’s plans. Flies and fleas serve God’s purposes too.

Either way, though, whether you are the annoyed or the annoyer, whether you solve the problems or create them, if you discover what you are, you have the opportunity to better yourself. I suspect we are all a bit of each. We each contribute positive and negative vibes in the lives of many.

Use other people’s devils to help you improve. But let Jesus drive out the devils in you. The Jewish people spread the reputation of Jesus throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. May you contribute to his good reputation wherever you go!

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