Because our imaginations have been formed by films like “The Exorcist” (which I’ve never seen) and by artistic representations of hell or the last judgment like Michelangelo’s, we have this image of Satan as a positive force that seeks to do evil.
There is some truth to this, as Peter writes in today’s first reading (1 Peter 5:8)
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
But the image of the devil as tormentor and tempter can sometimes lead us to forget that Satan is the accuser or the one who hinders.
One of my favorite passages from the Book of Revelation (12: 10b) is found in Thursday’s Evening Prayer:
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out
who night and day accused them before the Lord.
I am not exactly sure what this means, but to me it suggests that the power of God, his loving mercy, outwits the power of the Accuser to think that we are beyond God’s loving mercy, that we are identified by our sinfulness.
But the image of the devil as the one who hinders us touches me even more.
The Hinderer keeps us from being what God wants us to be, from being God’s people, a people of love and hope. The Hinderer keeps us paralyzed with fear, with a sense of powerlessness.
I think Pope Francis, in an early Twit, spoke to this point:
We ought not fear the Evil One when he tells us that we cannot do anything to confront violence, injustice, and sin.
The forces of evil do not have the final word. They are not all-powerful.
Rather, as disciples of Christ, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel (Mark 16: 17):
in my Name, you will cast out demons
What are the demons that need to be cast out of our lives, of our world?
I would suggest that they are the demons of Satan the Hinderer who concentrates on the evil, who makes us feel powerless in the face of injustice and violence, who takes away our hope.
But the message of Jesus is that He, the Risen One, has trampled down evil, gives us a vision of justice and peace to spur us onward, and gives us hope.
And so, we can – with His love – cast out demons as begin to live as children of God.