Here is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.
Each time we pray as Jesus taught us, we ask God to “deliver us from evil.”
Evil is real. Evil is not only an abstract idea or the absence of good. Evil is a person, Satan: the Evil One. Satan is the angel who opposes God and who desires to disrupt the power of God in our lives. Satan, the father of all lies, wants to trap us in evil in order to prevent God’s plan from being accomplished in our lives, to keep us from doing good in the world, and to keep us from eternal intimacy with God in heaven.
Evil can keep us from living as God made us to live; evil can keep us from becoming the saints God wants us to be, evil can make us slaves, and ultimately, evil can lead us to final separation from God in eternal damnation. But the Lord conquers all evil. And St. Paul taught that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Through the power of God, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, evil can be conquered, and we can be set free.
When Christ became a man, and when he died and conquered death in his resurrection, he assured us that we can be delivered from evil through his victory. He assured us that we can conquer even the great evil of death, because he conquered it, and by his grace, we share in that victory.
We are delivered from evil through baptism and confirmation, through confession, through the most Holy Eucharist. But our lives can be entangled with the evil of sin, and that evil can bind us. The evil of anger, of self-doubt, of fear, of pride, or shame, or mistrust, or laxity, or scrupulosity can work its way into our lives and prevent us from living in the real freedom God has planned for us. Christ can cast out these spirits and each time we pray the Lord’s prayer; we can be delivered from evil.
Satan works most often in ways that are subtle, that begin almost unnoticed, and that grow and fester over time into serious problems. Satan wants his work to be unnoticed in our lives. In The Screwtape Letters, the Christian apologist CS Lewis says that Satan wants to tempt us with “the safest road to Hell… the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
To be sure, there are those who encounter Satan in more dramatic ways, in the manifestations of demonic possession. Those occurrences are addressed, through the power of Jesus Christ, by a priest who is properly trained to identify them, understand them, and rebuke them. But Satan usually works through less apparent pathways: through whispered temptations, which can lodge themselves in our hearts in subtle and unnoticed ways.
To be sure, God wants to us to be free of the influence of evil in our lives. He wants to deliver us from all evil. And praying for deliverance, as a specific intention and with confidence in God’s power, can transform our lives.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, many Catholics have experienced the grace of freedom, of deliverance from entanglements with evil, through the ministry of Unbound teams. Unbound is a ministry which helps Catholics to pray for deliverance from the influence of evil in specific ways.
Through Unbound ministry, Catholics repent and seek freedom from their sins. They renounce the specific ways in which Satan’s lies have impacted them in the authority of Jesus, and then seek the blessing of God the Father through the prayers of other faithful Catholics. The ministry of Unbound is not a ministry of exorcism; it is instead an exercise of prayer—of entrusting all things to the power of Jesus Christ, and asking him for true and lasting freedom.
Evil is real. But grace is also real. And the power of God’s grace conquers all evil—and can conquer the evils present in our own lives. St. Paul says that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” God desires to bring those spirits into our lives, and to deliver us, and set us free, from everything that keeps us from him. Oh Lord, deliver us from evil.