Fr. Scott Haynes
A Meditation on Psalm 24
Oculi mei semper ad Dominum (“My eyes are always turned toward the Lord”).
This is the prayer of a soul imploring deliverance from the snares of the devil. Like the man in the Psalms, we also need to lift up our eyes to the Lord in the moment of distress. Yes, Christ the Lord came into this world that He might expel the prince of darkness, (John 12:31) and to redeem us from Satan’s power. St. Anthony says:
“The devil is like a dragon caught by the Lord with the fishing-hook of the Cross, tied with a halter like a beast of burden, chained like a fugitive slave, and his lips pierced through with a ring, so that he may not devour any of the faithful. Now he sighs, like a miserable sparrow, caught by Christ and turned to derision, and thrown under the feet of Christians. He who [once] flattered himself that he would possess the whole orbit of the earth, behold, he has to yield!”
If the devil is thrown under the feet of Christians and tied with a halter like a beast of burden, why then does the evil spirit say [in the Gospel]:
“I will return into my house?”
To understand this, we need to first understand that the devil does not have any power over those who are in a state of grace. The devil can find no home in a man whose heart is filled with God. This may be among the reasons why Our Lord honors the Virgin Mary, His Blessed Mother, saying: “Blessed are they who keep the word of God and keep it.” No one has kept Christ at the center of his or her life like the Immaculata—the Immaculate Virgin.
Understand that if a man hates the Word of God, he despises Christ, the Word of God made flesh in the womb of our Lady. And someone in a state of grace, who has the indwelling of God in his soul, freely chooses to commit a mortal sin, then one might say he commits spiritual suicide. Simply put, the man who knowingly rebels against God in a grave matter with his eyes wide open is in a state of mortal sin. By the free choice of his sin, through his rebellion, he has expelled God’s presence from his own soul. He has kicked God out of his house – out of his soul. The Word of God, which is the ultimate truth, is replaced by the Word of Satan which is the ultimate lie. The man who chooses to commit mortal sin dethrones Christ the King and seats the devil upon the throne of his heart.
When a man kicks God out of his heart by committing mortal sin Satan moves in immediately. In the Gospel the evil spirit says, “I will return into my house,” because the evil spirit is only contented where he is welcomed and received. But the Lord, in his goodness, brings repentant sinners good news through the Sacrament of Confession. When a person trapped in mortal sin enters the confessional, the gates of Paradise are flung open, and the gates of hell are slammed shut. Satan is terrified of the confessional box, because that is where his works are destroyed.
Should we have the misfortune to fall into mortal sin, we ought to issue Satan an eviction notice. He who comes to confession issues Christ an invitation to immediately reclaim his own soul as the Lord’s own beautiful garden of paradise. With the Cross, Christ can always catch Satan. The Cross is Christ’s fishing hook and with it He reels in that tempter of our souls to piercing the dragon’s lips and keep us safe from Satan’s venomous bite.
Once we are free of sin by the grace of a good confession, we remember that the Gospel tells us:
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through places without water, seeking rest.”
St. Gregory the Great explains this saying:
“The dry places without water, are the hearts of the just, who by the force of penance have drained the dampness of carnal desires.”
When sanctifying grace has filled the heart, the evil-one indeed finds no rest, no home, because in the soul that is washed in God’s saving grace malice finds no home.
Christ said to His disciples:
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
You see, it is not enough for salvation to hear the word of God only. It is not enough to come to church and listen to the sermon. No! We must keep the Word of God too. But what does it mean to keep the Word of God? Well in the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John, we read:
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
To keep the Word of God, therefore, means to maintain one’s soul in the state of grace, practice the virtues, especially charity, and stay close to the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
As we follow Our Sweet Jesus through the barren desert of Lent, St. Paul exhorts us to fix our eyes on Him who is
“...the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).