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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

This week, from Monday to Friday, I was on retreat. Not the kind of retreat

where you’re sitting on a nice beach, with beautiful weather and a Bacardi

in your hand, but instead it was a religious retreat for priests. And on the

Thursday evening, we stayed up late to watch a film. It’s not the sort of

film that young children would want to watch, but perhaps more suitable

for adults. It’s called Nefarious and it’s about a man who is due to be

executed for various murders, and an expert is sent into the prison to

double-check, first, that the man about to be executed isn’t insane. If he is,

then the execution can’t go ahead. You see, he’s claiming to be possessed.

Our so-called expert is an atheist, and so he doesn’t believe in that sort of

thing. He is warned beforehand that this prisoner is an expert manipulator,

and also that, by the time he’s finished with you, he will make you think

that you did the murders, not him. Without spoiling the plot, something

like that does begin to happen. It’s a very interesting examination of the

psychology of demons, and how they will use a lot of the truth and then

mix a small amount of deception into the mix. The Catholic priest, in the

film, by the way, is useless. He doesn’t believe in possession and prefers to

think about it all just in terms of psychology.

So, our expert, as the Americans say, has to go figure how this man knows

so much about him, his family and his life, when he’s never met him before,

and whether to declare him insane or to allow him to be executed.

Why bring all this up? Well, for one thing, there is something called

Halloween coming up towards the end of the month, where the harmless is

mixed together with less savoury things to act as a barb to draw people into

experimenting later on in life with what is forbidden. Sometimes it’s called

the occult, which derives from the Latin word occulta, which means

something hidden. The Star Wars films sometimes talk about the “dark

side”; in the film Nefarious the demon explains how they came about: God

created the angels, but some of them rebelled against God and turned to

evil, so they ended up in hell. They were even more enraged that God went

on to create human beings, who would take their place in heaven, so they

try to score points against God by getting as many human beings as they

can to come and join them.

On 1st November we celebrate All Saints’ Day, God’s victory in the lives of

so many people who have made it to heaven. They overcame the

temptations of this world, the flesh and the devil and now have a place in

paradise. God has been victorious in their lives, and like the people in the

first reading, exult and rejoice that the Lord has saved them. Christ has

won the victory over death; they do not celebrate death. Meanwhile, the

Gospel reading indicates to us that salvation is not an automatic thing: “For

many are called but few are chosen” – some get thrown out into the dark,

“where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth”.

So, at one point in the film, the demon is asked how he supposedly gained

control of the prisoner. He said it was in simple, small steps, that weren’t

noticed. It began with theft as a small child, and it just went on from there.

We’re also warned in the film that the demons know the value of …

patience. They deliberately delay cause … and effect.

So, I just want to add a serious warning to the adults. The first

commandment speaks of not allowing anything else in our lives to take the

place of God. In the Old Testament, King Solomon wants to know the

result of his forthcoming battle, but God isn’t giving him an answer, so he

goes to the witch of Endor. It ends badly, as you would imagine. We need

to be careful not to get subtly pushed, manipulated, deceived, whatever you

might call it, into making contact with the world of evil spirits. That

includes things such as Ouija boards, Tarot cards, seances, Reiki,

freemasonry and many other forbidden practices. What God has given us

in the Church is sufficient. We don’t need to go looking elsewhere. And if

we have been involved in these things, we need to stop, renounce them and

go to confession. We wouldn’t give the keys to our house to a complete

stranger that we caught breaking into our neighbour’s car. It doesn’t make

sense to give the keys to our soul into the hands of those we know who are

out to hurt us.

So, I hope you all say your prayers on 31st October. And why not come and

celebrate the joy of the saints on Wednesday 1st November? You might

need their help more than you think…

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