When I pray the words “deliver us from evil”, I often think of a young man named David who made a courageous choice in his life, that of forgiving the man who abducted and murdered his 12 year-old sister. This young man could have held on to that evil, he could have allowed himself to remain imprisoned in the vortex of revenge and hatred. Instead, he asked the Lord to be delivered from the poison of evil, that same evil that had already caused so much pain to his family.
In our lives, we all have experienced the temptation to dwell on the negative, to brood over injuries and hurts. This temptation is often accompanied by the illusory sensation of feeling empowered, almost as if the holding on to a grudge could create something good. Evil begets evil. Only love can beget life. As long as we allow evil to dwell in our hearts, we will continue to reap pain and hurt. David understood this truth very clearly, when he asked thousands of people to join him in praying a Novena for the conversion of his sisters’ murderer.
Whenever we choose love over evil, life over death, we make room for the Holy Spirit to act in our lives. Where God finds room, He enters. It is in His nature to fill reality with His presence. Like water that penetrates wherever there is a crack, so God seeps into the space that love creates. It is so common to hear people speaking of their conversions in terms of “I just felt a sudden and unexpected desire to pray, and the next thing I knew, I became a believer.” God desires to permeate our lives with the gift of Himself, yet He respects our free will and our own timing.
For as much as we would like this to be an easy transformation, and as deeply as we can desire always to choose the right path, the evil spirit is alive and alert, ready to stifle any sign of life and growth. Contrary to what many people believe, the devil is no less present today than he was when he tempted Jesus in the desert. C.S. Lewis puts it very eloquently in his masterpiece The Screwtape Letters. In chapter 7 he writes a conversation between demons referring to a man who is incredulous about their existence: “The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them), and he therefore cannot believe in you.”
Though it might be difficult to believe this truth in theory, we all have experienced its effects in our lives. When we try to do something good, obstacles seem to be coming out of nowhere. When we make the effort to forgive someone who hurt us, an image or a memory comes in and reopens a wound that we were trying to let heal. Sometimes we even notice apathy, sadness and turmoil that entangle our hearts and minds, trying to smother the living flame of the Holy Spirit present in us.
In this spiritual battle that takes place in and around us, the Lord is always with us. He who suffered the unspeakable for us has sealed the everlasting covenant with humanity. On that first Easter morning, death was destroyed, and we have been given the weapons to fight the spiritual battle that will continue until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. Many Saints (especially St. Ignatius of Loyola) have traced a path for us to follow in the discernment of spirits, which is the ability to sift through inner experiences to determine their origin. If they are from God, we are to embrace them. If they are from the evil spirit, we are to reject them.
As we continue to pray the words of the Our Father every day, let us apply our God-given ability to embrace the positive inspirations that come from the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, as we experience the heaviness of the negative inspirations that come to us from the evil spirit, let us call on the Lord’s name and ask Him to deliver us from evil and to keep us close to His heart.
Considering and being receptive of the positive inspirations and entrusting to God the negative ones so that He might in return give us His love and peace.