Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Devil Shows No Mercy

I do not watch horror movies. I used to, when I was younger. The ones that scared me the most were the ones that could “actually” happen. The move “The Shining” was filmed at a hotel that I visited as a child. When I saw the movie, I had specific memories of being in some of the places that were in the movie. In fact, the movie scared me to such an extreme, that to this day I will not watch it. It also involved demons. I do not watch movies with demons in them. Why? Because I believe the devil exists. Movies that involve possession scare me more than those involving some guy in a mask stalking teenagers because to me, the enemy is prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls and that includes in my own home.

That being said, I decided to go to the movie “The Rite” which opened this past weekend. The reason I went was so that I could evangelize my husband. You see, my husband was raised Jehovah Witness. He was baptized catholic in 1997 when our 2nd child was born. Although he was baptised and attends church regularly, he really has not embraced this faith as his own. As a Jehovah Witness, he was taught that Jehovah is God. Jesus Christ was His son, but not God and certainly not a gift to mankind for the atonement of sin. So the version of God that my husband grew up with was that of a God that judges, gives rules and laws governing everything including how many hours a week must be logged in service to prove their faith. For those who did not put in enough hours or “measure up”, they were publicly denounced as “bad association” or dis-fellowshipped. Many times, this also involved being shunned by their own family members.

These experiences that were devoid of God's mercy or love were what convinced my husband from a very early age that if there was a God, he did not want any part of tHim if He could be so harsh and the members of the Kingdom Hall taught him that God would not want the likes of him either. It is ironic that the devil made more of a believer out of my husband then their Jehovah God. When he was very young, he heard about backward masking and so he played a Queen Album backward on his record player. What he heard scared him enough to decide to burn the album. When he took the album outside and set it to flame, he heard what he to this day believes, were the screeches of demons and he saw what he believed were their faces within the flames. It scared him, but it also planted a seed that if the devil was real, perhaps God was too.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I decided to ask my husband if we could go see this movie. My reasoning was to water the seed, which was his belief in the supernatural realm. My hopes were that it would strengthen his faith. My husband is always willing to please me and so agreed. As we left the movie my husband commented on how the people around us were clearly unaffected by what we all just saw. I have to admit, I also noticed that many of the audience members (even during the movie) made off hand comments about how ridiculous it all was. Many of their offhand comments were made during shots that referred to the Vatican or about the priesthood or that anyone could exert power over the demonic by simply using a crucifix because of the symbol of Christ's love and sacrifice and victory over sin.
Among other things, I heard comments revealing that many of the audience members did not believe in God, much less the Devil. One gentlemen with a shaved head, 10 earrings in one ear and a leather jacket with a skull and references to Anarchy, expressed his disappointment that there was not enough violence and it was not a "horror" movie at all. I guess he expected more gore or pea soup, of which their was none.

I was surprised that I did not expect the audiences reaction. I guess I expected people to have their eyes opened. I expected them to walk out and see a new world around them. I guess I had hoped that the movie would make the audience suddenly aware that the world was one of which demons constantly prowl about seeking the ruin of souls. What I really had hoped for was that movie goers would recognize that the Catholic Church had demonstrated to the world that the enemy is real and the church has the tools to defeat the evil one.

Unfortunately that did not happen. I am consoled by the fact that God uses any opportunity to plant a seed and that includes this movie. Arch Bishop Fulton Sheen said that the greatest accomplishment of the Devil was to convince people he did not exist. He was right. The Devil hides in plain sight. What I liked best about this movie was the the enemies tactics were exposed. The enemy showed us how he likes to regurgitate our faults back to us without mercy or love but rather with accusation and disgust. The enemy disguises himself as just a thought or just a voice in our minds that continually leads us back to our past wrongs or failures and then he magnifies them in such a way that we, in pride, believe our sins are to big for God's forgiveness.

I was no longer filled with grief but realized that this movie could be a catalyst for conversions. My husband solidified this when he said something very profound to me. He asked me if I thought that perhaps the enemy revealed his existence to him as a youth because as a Jehovah Witness, the enemy knew that he had no place to go and no resources to protect him. The enemy knew that by revealing himself to my husband, that he would only be scared, despair and feel that the God he knew could never be greater or stronger, since the God that my husband had been introduced to was not one of love and mercy, but of wrath and judgement.

We began to discuss how in the movie the enemy would use many tactics. One was that the devil would accuse the seminarian of many past indiscretions or sins. That is important to note because he does that to every one of us on a daily basis only he does it while hiding himself. The devil hides himself by convincing us he does not exist and then comes to us in what seems to be our own "voice" in our minds. This voice is one that is an accuser that is quick to point out our flaws, our shortcomings and our failures to be “good”. Here is a good piece of advice, if the voice you hear is accusing you without mercy, then chances are this is not of God. It is not that God does not reveal our shortcomings or failures to us, but rather it is in the “way” God reveals them to us. I believe my husband was very insightful. It is true, that as a Catholic we know that God is a triune God and this relationship of three persons reveals a God of love and mercy.

God reveals and shows us our shortcomings and failures in such a way as to encourage us to grow. An example is that recently at a retreat, God revealed to me that there was a “door” in which I did not even know existed in my life. This door was a place I was hiding some very stinking and smelly shortcomings. I could smell it, I just did not know where the smell was coming from. While in adoration one day, it was like He said “Psst..Over here”. It was so gentle and so loving that even though I knew that what was behind the door smelled really bad, I was ready to see the source. Then, Jesus and Mary took me by both of my hands and the door creaked open just a sliver and then he shut the door quickly. I knew in that moment that God truly is loving father and merciful Saviour. He wanted me to address my issues, but He also understood that I needed to be led gently so that I would not despair or doubt His love for me. The enemy wants to dump the stink and filth on us so that we are consumed and overwhelmed in it. He wants us to feel like we are drowning in our filth and failures and to believe that we are unworthy to call out for help. He wants us to believe that our sins are too great. But as this amazing movie pointed out, the devil is a liar. The only thing he is great at is being a great deceiver!

St. Faustina revealed to us that Christ's mercy is an ocean of unimaginable depths and the invitation is extended to all, especially the one who has committed the most horrific of sins.

What a beautiful gift I received when I realized that the audience did in fact receive a gift even if they did not realize it. The gift was that a seed was planted. That seed was the seed of Divine Mercy and I heard it in the lines “God chooses us! We do not choose Him, He chooses us”. It is so amazing to me that God can use any means and any circumstance to evangelize, even a horror movie. Just as I had hoped, the seed of faith growing in my husbands heart was nurtured and awakened through our discussion that transpired from the movie. What I did not expect, was to see that God could use the devil to reveal not only His own existence as God, but to reveal His mercy.

The moment I realized this was when I heard the words John 15:16 “You didn't choose me. I chose you.” for about the third or fourth time. It was these words that truly exemplify the love and mercy of God because these words reveal that it is only in the Christian faith that we see God coming to us, seeking to reveal Himself and to enter into a relationship with us. As Christians our faith differs from every other religion in that God comes to us! He seeks us out as St. Augustine shares with us in the words we hear every Easter:
“What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

There is no limit to God's ability to demonstrate His Mercy and love, even a horror movie. I don't know about you, but to quote another movie, He had me at “Hello...”