Devil movies are one of those things I generally don’t do. I don’t see very many movies at all: the new Star Wars? not yet – but I will. Monster movies are not my favorite, but I can handle them. Scary movies, whether in outer space or elsewhere? Maybe. But not devil movies. Why? Well, the devil is real, and a real threat. That’s really scary to the point of being disturbing, plus I don’t like to give him that much attention. It only encourages him.
Everybody knows the film, The Exorcist; yes, the one with the steps in Georgetown. But it didn’t happen in Georgetown – it happened closer to us, in Mt. Rainier. And it was a young boy, not a girl (sorry, Linda Blair). But a real exorcist encountered a real possession just down the road from where we are, albeit several decades ago.
Lent always starts off with a real devil story. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Luke offers more details than the others, but the basics are the same. How Jesus got there in the first place – the Spirit drove Him; what the effect was of His fasting -- He was hungry.
One of the names for the devil is the tempter, and here we see him at his defining work. He holds out to his intended victims something that seems good, but is not as good as what they would be losing. Jesus responds to each temptation with a reassertion of the greater good, to which He holds, repelling the devil.
Another name for the devil that we find in the Sacred Scriptures is the accuser. The devil does not always try to make us feel special by his attentions; no, often he tries to make us feel rotten, unloved and unlovable. He reminds us of every failing, fault, sin, and shortcoming, and plays up many that aren’t even real.
I remember a priest telling me that he once was called to a neighbor’s house by their Protestant minister, who knew that in matters involving the devil, he himself didn’t have what they needed for help. When the priest arrived at the home that had the devil problem, he told me he saw “written on the front door everything (he) had ever done.” Shaken but undeterred, he entered and chased out the opponent who had thus revealed his identity.
I think the accuser is very busy these days. Discouragement and depression are rampant to the point of epidemic in our society, despite the high level of comfort and “happiness” that its victims seem to possess. Do you think it is coincidental that this is the case at a time when so many folks are convinced he does not exist?
It is important for us to remember that in our lives, and in our hopes for heaven, we have an enemy – the enemy, who desires to keep us from the true and perfect good for which we yearn, and for whom we are made. If we remember that we are in combat, we are more able to fight what would destroy or devour us. We have many helps in our fight against the devil. Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
In the final formulation, though, our confidence should be with Him who withstood the temptations of the devil, and who claims us as His own. He is not far from us, nor is His strength something for which He expects us to beg. Our Baptism makes us a place without room for the devil to dwell; and being fed as we are upon the Body of our Lord, we have less stomach for the father of lies. Christ Himself is our bulwark and our defense. We are in Him, and He in us. He is the victor over temptation, and the tempter. He keeps us from fear – even of devil movies.