The Devil Uses the World to Blind Folks

 

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not….” [2Cor.IV:3-4]
St. Paul makes a startling claim that the god of this world, the devil, blinds people to the Gospel. The word Gospel means “good news” so he is saying that the devil keeps people from seeing the Good News that Jesus proclaims.
Jesus himself made the same point in his parable about the sower. He told his disciples afterwards that the seed which fell among thorns and never grew represented those who are choked by the cares of this world.
Maybe this claim by St. Paul is startling in part because, unlike so much of his writing, this sentence leaps out with instant clarity. One does not have to wade through what he is talking about or worry about symbolism, such as with previous references to Moses and veiling the truth.
So we learn from St. Paul that the devil not only works but actually succeeds in stopping people, not all people obviously as St. Paul recognizes. But he stops many from perceiving the Good News which can save them and troubles everyone. The “saving” refers to gaining eternal life, something which we addressed in some detail last Sunday. Those who do not get the Gospel lose out on heaven.
How does the devil do this? His power is not such as to make or move a mountain. St. Thomas Aquinas regarded the devil’s power as a corrupting influence. It may be something innocuous or even often seen as good. Water is necessary to make a watercolor painting; but throwing water onto the finished product corrupts it. It is the right thing at the wrong time.
Heat is necessary to bake a cake. But being called away by an unexpected visitor or a neighbor in need can lead one to forget about the oven and the heat corrupts and ruins the cake.
The devil uses innocuous or even wholesome things around us to blind us to the Gospel message: “store not for yourselves treasures on earth…but in heaven”. He uses good things such as family and personal concerns to draw our attention away: there are the kids to worry about (e.g. schooling, injuries, tuition, braces, piano lessons); the boss is a bear; my colleague is a jerk; I haven’t been feeling well; I need to get some exercise; we need to stress about retirement, to name just a tiny handful.
All of these concerns are normal, natural, and not bad at all to even laudatory. But, at the right time and place. Priorities matter. Just as no one worries about his tax return when being wheeled into the O.R., we need to have the right priorities or the devil will use this world to consume us, to blind us. Again, he uses something ordinary, everyday, innocuous, and even good to keep us from something even better, more important.
We all struggle to keep our emotions in hand. God gave us the emotion of anger so that we could and would fight against evil that we perceive. But that crafty master of lies, the devil, gets the better of us and corrupts our noble instinct to be mad about, say, partial birth abortion and morphs it into anger about bad health care and which political party is responsible for this crisis!
Being from hell the devil, without breaking a sweat, can convert love into lust or passion into pride, our need for food into gluttony, or our need for rest into sloth. Any natural desire or need he can corrupt and thereby use to prevent us from the Good News.
I doubt anyone will disagree in my noting how society today is almost perfect to prevent anyone from perceiving Jesus’ good news. While churches exist and the Gospel gets spread in new ways via television and the internet, virtually everything seems corrupted from decades earlier.
For starters, think about what was on television during JFK’s term vs. today? While not every show was as classic as Andy Griffith and Ed Sullivan, there was nothing even close to MTV and Family Guy. There was professional wrestling, which nobody took seriously, unlike today’s kickboxing or women’s boxing. For fun sometime, check out the half-time entertainment at the very first Super Bowl–ostrich racing–vs. the Janet Jackson episode or other recent Super Bowl halftime fare.
Our desire for a decent home for our family has been corrupted by coveting into a desire to have a trophy home, or two. Our desire to eat, especially healthy and tasty food, has led to restaurants on every corner and huge portions of ones income going to others. Our desire for health has led to enormous hospitals and clinics and expensive workout equipment and clubs. Our desire for joy has been corrupted into 24/7 entertainment. My folks used to tell us kids to turn off the TV. I am glad with grown children not to have to police 24/7 entertainment via monitors, cell phones, and ear-buds.
Obviously I could go on for quite a while. Suffice it to say that if the devil had been given liberty by the Almighty, along the likes of the story of Job, to try to design the perfect environment to stymie any human thought about the Almighty, well, it probably would look close to what we call modern society. One is hard pressed to find genuine quiet; disturbing images and sounds of all types always are in one’s ears, distractions are everywhere, and entertainment is possible every hour of the day without leaving ones house or bedroom.
A recent WSJ columnist recalled the actual crying withdrawals his daughters went through when he physically curtailed their ability to use their cell phones at any and all moments. Another recent related story was about how researchers have discovered and begun recommending, to executives and others, the mental health benefits (I kid you not) of quiet and uninterrupted….pleasure reading.
St. Matthew, as with the other Apostles, had the opportunity to stay within his comfort zone as a tax collector. Matthew could have stayed and lived securely and even luxuriously. He gave that up on the spot. He found a totally new path filled with challenges but almost certainly also full of energy.
A great opportunity can produce its own great energy. Handel’s greatest masterpiece his “Messiah” he wrote in only three weeks. Mozart’s Requiem Mass was a similar astounding work crafted in almost no time.
The light of the Gospel radiating through ones life will energize it as nothing else can. It can produce its own energy, joy, and radiance. Let us pray and work to keep ourselves focused on our most important treasure in this life: gaining eternal life. Coming to church, prayer, and reflection help mightily, along with turning “down the sound”, and keeping our desires small.
Let us also help those we love to focus on Jesus’ Good News and not become blinded by the world and the devil. Get them also to come to church regularly but also stress to them: tune down the light and noise of the outside world the rest of the time! I might summarize here by simply recalling our opening prayer today. “ALMIGHTY God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ.”

Cowboy 10 Commandments