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 Easters joyful festivity is not due to some vague notion of being
spiritually refreshed or the result of a communitys 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 Pauls 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). Lets 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 Lords 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
beinga fallen angelwhose 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 weve 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 Matthews 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 Satans 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
Satans 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."
(This article was originally published in the April 11, 2004 edition
of Our Sunday Visitor
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
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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