The Devil's use of Half Truths
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you." He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come." So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
The Gospel for this Sunday presents us with a flurry of activity, set at the beginning of Christís public life. In the space of a few lines, the Lord Jesus has healed Simonís mother-in-law, healed the diseases of the crowd, cast out many demons, gone to spend the night in prayer, been pursued by the whole town and gone on to preach elsewhere. We see here the dynamism and urgency of the love he bears toward the people of Galilee and, through them, toward us as well. Yet there are strange things tucked away in this continuous stream of ministry, and we would do well not to miss them.
Strangest among these is perhaps the fact that when the demons whom Jesus casts out say they know who he is, he silences them. In fact, the Gospel tells us that Christ does not permit the demons to speak precisely because they know him. Why would this be a good reason for silencing the demons? He does this, at least in part, because the demons lie even when they tell the truth.
It is a common tactic of our Enemy and his servants to use the truth, or at least parts of it, in order to confuse and tell lies. Evil is parasitic on good; it cannot exist on its own but must survive by twisting things that are good in themselves. Even the devil himself is not purely evil but a corruption of an angel, glorious among Godís creations, through pride and envy. So also with the work that the Enemy does. He could never convince us of anything if he tempted us with pure evil, entirely opposed to good, completely irrational and repulsive. He is able to do far more if he tells us the truth in the wrong way, at the wrong time or in the wrong context.
How might this look in our lives? Perhaps we are struggling with sorrow in our spiritual lives, having difficulty seeing that we are loved by God as his beloved children in baptism. Into that moment, the devil might whisper the truth that we are sinners who do not deserve to receive anything from God. While this is true, it is only part of the truth, and it is not the truth a person in sorrow really needs to hear. Perhaps we are having trouble convincing ourselves to really make an effort against a sinful habit in our lives. Into that moment, the devil speaks that God will take care of all things, and that confidence in his mercy should drive fear out of our souls. This is also true, but again, only part of the whole truth, and not what the person unwilling to fight against sin really needs to hear. By telling fragments of truth at the wrong moment, the devil can confuse us greatly, even influencing us to turn away from what our souls need, not to mention the damage he can do in the world with this underhanded tactic.
We fight this by silencing the devil whenever we become aware that we are hearing half-truths, or when we become aware that some particular truth is strangely holding us back from the Lord. We fight this by asking the Lord to contradict us with the whole truth, by becoming familiar enough with our faith to know when something is missing, and by submitting our judgment with humility to a wise and holy Catholic friend or director. Only Christ tells us the whole truth, out of perfect love for our souls, and with him, we can remain firm in silencing the demons wherever they seek entrance into our hearts.