Saturday, November 12, 2016


 St. James writes in his epistle, ""Thou believeth that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"  It was on the basis of this verse that Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, excised this book from the Holy Scriptures, calling it a "straw epistle."  St. Paul does declare that we are "justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law."  But he also writes, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."  For while the Law of Moses is insufficient in itself to restore to us our broken communion with God, the Law of Love revealed in and through our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ demands that the faithful Christian struggle to overcome every sinful passion while acquiring those virtues by which we are made worthy of entering into God's eternal Kingdom.  As our Lord Himself declares, "from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

In today's Gospel, the demoniac cries out, "what have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou son of God most high?  I beseech Thee, torment me not!"  How remarkable!  The devil itself confesses its belief in God, and acknowledges Jesus as His Son.  The devil truly believes, and yet it trembles in fear, fully aware that God is All-Powerful--and therefore the demon's days are clearly numbered. 

It is for this reason that St. Peter cautions us in his epistle: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."  Satan and his minions know full well that their days are short, and so they are desperate to drag down into hell as many souls as they can, by whatever means, until that final day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.  The fact is, Satan and his army of demons hate the human race with a white hot hatred far exceeding our comprehension.  Had God not set limits upon what the demons can do in their effort to draw us away from God, they would surely do unto us exactly what they did to the swine, killing us outright.  Yes, the demons truly do believe in God--and they are, therefore, dead set on destroying and perverting by whatever means God's good creation. 

And what of you and I, miserable sinners that we are?  No doubt we do believe in God, and surely our intentions are good... we are, after all, basically "good people," right?  Except it is not by "goodness" that we are saved, but rather by holiness... which is gained, as St. Seraphim of Sarov explains, through acquiring within ourselves the Holy Spirit of God.  And this means going beyond bare belief and basic human decency, striving through a martyric struggle to fulfill the Gospel commandments, that our love for God and neighbor might be made fully manifest in all of our thoughts, words and deeds, and that we might--by God's grace--gain victory over the forces of evil that seek to destroy us.

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