In the first reading, St. Paul compares the coming of Jesus to something very negative. Jesus is a thief who comes to destroy and leaves his victims no escape. Is this Jesus, my Savior, Prince of Peace? This sounds terrifying. Why couldn’t his coming be compared to something happy, like a surprise birthday party?
But in the Gospel we find a key word repeated. The demons exorcised ask, “have you come to destroy us”. I think this is the key to understanding the first reading. Jesus does come to destroy. But we need not be afraid because He comes to destroy evil, which should be cause for joy! Our God is here vanquish the darkness so that we might live in His light.
In thinking about this, I am reminded by what was said in my favorite Catholic show St. Joseph’s Workshop. The battle of good vs evil is not a battle between two beings on an equal playing field, the outcome of which is unknown. God created Lucifer and all of the fallen angels who chose to reject Him out of their own free will (also given to them by God). And He can just as easily make them disappear (why he doesn’t is a topic for another day). But the point is that evil will never be greater than God and that should give us hope and courage.
Sometimes this world seems overrun with evil. Pay attention to any news and you will be convinced of that. But even if you bury your head in the sand, you will still witness and be victim to evil on a daily basis, in the form of prejudice, gossip, selfishness, etc. Sometimes this can be so overwhelming.
This is even more true in our own internal spiritual battles. How many times have I gone to confession for the same sins? How many times have I said I would be better now, only to fall into the same old bad habits? This process can be completely demoralizing. Sometimes we may feel like we have no control..that we are slaves to our evil desires - much like the possessed man in the Gospel surely felt. BUT this is where we turn it over to God because we have the confidence that he is mightier than and has authority over evil. He can destroy the darkness in our lives and fill us with light if we only ask him. We can’t keep others at work from gossiping and we can’t single-handedly bring an end to corrupt politics. But we CAN choose to turn our lives over to God so that he might fill them with grace. We can be the ray of light in a sometimes dark world…a light that that can spread from one person to another.
Dear Jesus, Light of the World, I offer you the ugly parts of my life that I wish I could hide. I offer You my repetitive failings, my bad habits, and my feelings of despair because I have hope in You. Jesus, Guardian of our Souls, destroy the sin in my life and replace it with Your grace. Make me a light in this world so that others will see Your goodness.