Pastoral Message – November 13, 2022
“See that you not be deceived.”
When FBI agents learn to identify counterfeit bills, they do not study fake bills. Instead, they spend hours studying genuine currency so that they can gain a complete understanding of how it looks and feels. Knowing the real thing intimately makes it easier to spot counterfeits. In almost every endeavor, the key to knowing falsehood is deeply knowing and understanding the truth. This particularly applies in matters of our faith. While the Psalmist tells us that, “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice,” Satan comes to rule the world with deception. To counter the three strategies of Satan, Jesus gives us three warnings in today’s Gospel: “Do not be deceived,” “Do not be afraid,” and, “Do not give up.” That’s why it is so important for us to read about our faith, to hear it proclaimed, and to study it. We deepen our knowledge of the truth by attending Mass and by participating in Bible Study or small faith groups where we can ask questions and discuss our faith so that we can better understand it. This helps us to avoid being deceived or trapped by the evil influences of this world.
When Jesus says, “Do not be deceived,” He is well aware that humans have been battling the deception of Satan from the earliest moments of creation. It started with Satan’s encounter with Eve at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. To accomplish his deception, he followed a three-step approach that he still uses today: Dispute, Deny, and Displace.
First, Satan disputes God’s Word. Satan asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” He suggested to Eve that somehow she had misunderstood what God said. We think that we know God’s Word, but then someone comes and says that there is a new interpretation of what God has said or that the Bible couldn’t possibly mean what we think that it means. That’s when we might get confused. Once we start thinking that we don’t really know God’s Word, we become vulnerable. In our doubt, we are more willing to listen to those who dispute His Word.
Second, Satan denies God’s Word. Satan says to Eve that, even if she eats of the tree, she “will surely not die.” The road from doubt to denial is very short. When we entertain doubts about God’s Word, we become open to the arguments of those who deny God’s Word and may be persuaded to deny God’s Word. Doubts can only properly be resolved if we are looking in the right places for answers. Dr. David Jeremiah describes it very well in his book, Until He Comes, “… every time you try to find an interpretation of a Scripture that will permit you to do something you know is wrong…it isn’t long until Satan drives a truck through that opening and dumps a load of stinking garbage in your life.” We cannot allow our doubts to be the entry point for outright denial.
Third, Satan displaces God’s Word. Satan tells Eve that, instead of leading to the end of her life, eating the forbidden fruit will actually give her a far better life: “For God knows that in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what God told you; go ahead, do whatever you want to do. Once we do not care about what God says, we give Satan a foothold into our lives.
When Jesus says, “do not be terrified…” He knows that we live in a world that seems to have embraced evil and forgotten God. He is reminding us that we can be calm and confident if we truly trust in God and believe that He is in control. Unfortunately, many people arrogantly challenge Christian values and beliefs and prefer to place their hopes in things and circumstances instead of in God. This approach is especially popular when times are good. In tragedy, however, it is rare to see people taking comfort in atheism. In the days following the 9-11 attacks, churches were full of people. Some were praying for the victims, others were seeking refuge from evil, still others were seeking comfort in God’s loving embrace. In times of tragedy, conflict, and despair, God is the only true beacon of hope and peace. There is no reason to be terrified if we build our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
Finally, when Jesus tells us, “Do not give up,” He recognizes that we often face events that will shake our faith. When life is comfortable, God is irrelevant to most people and they say that there is no need of God. But when the world is shaken by terrifying events it looks for hope. That is our opportunity to direct them to the source of all hope – Jesus Christ. When those who hope in this world are disappointed, frustrated, angry and afraid, we can explain that we are calm and hopeful because we have an intimate relationship with God who is the hope and purpose of our lives. We don’t give up and run away from God, we run toward Him and try to bring others with us.
Do not be deceived. Do not be afraid. Do not give up.