Easter Delivers Us From Evil | By Carl E. Olson

Easter Delivers Us From Evil | By Carl E. Olson

This is the last of seven Lenten/Easter reflections based on the "Our Father."


"Deliver us from evil."

At first glance, it might not seem appropriate, or at least "on message," to contemplate the final petition of the Our Father on Easter. After all, Easter is a time of joy and celebration, the Feast of feasts and, in the words of Saint Athanasius, the Great Sunday.

But Easter’s joyful festivity is not due to some vague notion of being spiritually refreshed or the result of a community’s desire to celebrate its ongoing existence. It is the proclamation that Jesus Christ did truly suffer and die, that He destroyed the power of evil and the Evil One, and that He is now truly risen from the dead.

In the words of theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, "The whole New Testament is unanimous on this point: the Cross and burial of Christ reveal their significance only in the light of the event of Easter, without which there is no Christian faith." This echoes Paul’s blunt words to the Corinthians: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:17). Let’s be perfectly frank: Christianity without the Cross is just another moral code taught by a great man, and the Cross without the Resurrection is just the tragic death of an inspiring leader.

The "evil" spoken of in the Lord’s Prayer is not an abstract concept, but is better understood as the personification of evil, Satan. Belief in the existence of Satan is often mocked in our supposedly enlightened age (although Satan makes regular cameos on the big screen), even while the reality of evil can be seen all around the world in events big and small: theft, murder, hatred, genocide, slavery, abuse, and corruption. The battle for souls rages around us, but the Risen Lord does not ask the Father that we, His disciples, be taken out of the world, but that we will be kept "from the evil one" (Jn 17:15).

On our own we are incapable of grappling with Satan. He is a spiritual being–a fallen angel–whose intellect and power far exceeds that of any man. The lone exception is the God-man, who strengthens and protects His flock from evil (cf., Thess 3:30).

"Faith in God the Father Almighty," states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering" (CCC 272). This is a lesson that many Christians learned during Lent, and one that others have experienced in dark moments of loneliness and hardship.

At times it can seem that God is not there and that He cannot stop evil. Why did 9/11 happen? Why does the murder of millions unborn babies continue? Where is God in the untimely death of the innocent and weak? Answers cannot be found apart from the Suffering Servant and the reality of Easter morning. "But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil" (CCC 272). The Resurrection confirms that Jesus is from God, and that the evil one and the power of death have been conquered.

The difficulty, as we’ve seen before, is that we live between the Cross and the return of the conquering King. We live in a battle zone, even though the final outcome is evident to those who enter into the Paschal Mystery on Easter. We are fighting the good fight, even though we rest in the promise of resurrection and glory won by our Savior.

The phrase "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" was added to Matthew’s Gospel years after it was originally written. It was a formula used by the early Christians, and it appears in The Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which was probably written around the end of the first century. It repeats the first three petitions of the Our Father: that His name be gloried, that His kingdom come in glory, and that the power of His will be known and accomplished.

The Catechism points out that the Evil One, the ruler of this world, has "mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory" (CCC 2855). Satan wants to rule all things, to have power everywhere and over everything, and steal and destroy the glory of all that exists. This is the meaning of "antiChrist"–claiming for oneself all of the authority, power, and glory due to the true Christ. By His death and resurrection, Jesus destroys all of Satan’s illusions, a reality powerfully depicted near the conclusion of "The Passion of the Christ" when Satan is shown howling in rage in the midst of a desolate landscape.

There is also a connection between this doxology, or "word of glory," and the three temptations that Jesus underwent in the desert before His public ministry began. Satan tempted Jesus to show His power by turning stones into bread. He tempted Jesus to reveal His heavenly glory by throwing Himself from the top of the Temple and having angels carry Him to safety. And the Evil One offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He will fall down and worship him.

However, Jesus knew that His kingdom could only be established through suffering and death. He understood that true power comes through love and sacrifice, not fear and arrogance. And He knew that His glorified body would result from rising from the grave, not by avoiding it. Jesus’ rejection of Satan’s temptations showed the heart of the Messiah who was intent on establishing His Kingdom.

Now, on this side of Easter, we can see how Lent prepares us for that Kingdom. Our time in the desert purifies us from the sins and attachments that keep us from holiness. The dark moments of temptation we face force us walk by faith, not by sight. United to Christ, we become more like Him. Suffering with Christ, we learn to really love. Dying with Christ, we learn to really live. "Now if we have died with Christ," Paul writes, "we believe that we shall also live with Him." United to His death, we share in His resurrected life: "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection."

Easter is the light at the end of the Lenten tunnel. The Resurrection is the light that illuminates the entire liturgical year. By the Resurrection the head of the Evil One is crushed, the Kingdom is established, and the children of God are made known.

"The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now," writes Saint Augustine, "while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future." Amen.

(This article was originally published in the April 11, 2004 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)



Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.

He is the co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?

He resides in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Visit his personal web site at www.carl-olson.com .



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