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~ Completing the Suffering of Christ ~

In response to what is non-biblical and contradictory to our Christian doctrines, we take different approaches. While some of us refuse to study Darwinism or, say, The Da Vinci Code book and film, and object when the public schools subject our children to their "teachings," others of us do study controversial paradigms with interest and academic discipline. I lean towards the latter approach. How can I respond to Darwinism or The Da Vinci Code without being as familiar with them as their proponents?

That being said, I acknowledge there are secular literary and film productions that are best ignored. I'm glad, for instance, the Christian community ignored the film, "Brokeback Mountain." Even Hollywood laid that film to rest by surprising many film critics (against their confident predictions) for its choice of another film as the best of the year. Some demons are empowered by our paying attention to them. Other demons do need confrontation, but, before confronting them, we best make sure we know what they know.

Despite years of familiarity with the record of the "seven sons of Sceva," I still chuckle upon reading it: "Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding" (Acts 19:13-16).

Importantly, the evil spirit revealed three things not to be overlooked: 1) It knows Jesus; 2) It knows about Paul; 3) It challenged the authority of the exorcists. I know the "principalities and powers of darkness" know about me, and I am happy their knowing does not go beyond "about me." They cannot enter into my body or spirit and therefore "know" me, as Christ can and does. We Christians know things that even the angels "desire to look into." Angels cannot know directly of the mystery of redemption or experience it since that gift is endowed only on humans. But they are sure curious about it. After all, they announced Christ's incarnation to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds tending their flocks, and sang praises for it. It does not mean, however, they understand it. Angels ministered to Jesus during His 40 days of isolation in the desert, and to Him during His passion, yet they still "long to understand these mysteries." I can relate to that, having ministered to many in their times of distress, pain and challenges. I cannot assert the arrogance of claiming I understood them or their experiences. However, I know I fulfilled my services and duty as therapist or friend.

Getting back to the evil spirit knowing Jesus (and only knowing just about Paul), it then follows such evil spirits know the Christ within me. Of course, I certainly want to know the Christ in a different way and intensity than they. This season of Lent is a special time of opportunity to enter deeply into the knowledge and relationship with Christ. This is not done through "giving up things," like coffee, meat or watching TV (which I don't do anyway.) This is a time to "know" Jesus, not just know about Him. And, unlike the knowing given to the evil spirits and angels, this knowing means becoming a part of the Body of Christ, a grace and inexplicable experience offered only to humankind. Evil spirits and angels cannot partake of the sacraments of baptism, Eucharistic communion (sacramentally consuming Christ's body and blood), or even matrimony. The biblical assertion that we humans will someday "judge" angels is beyond me. But I am beginning to approach a bit of understanding regarding it. 

Do you know about Jesus and believe in Him? Not good enough. So do the evil spirits and "they tremble."

I heard some preachers declare that God created man for "company." Nonsense. God needs no company, especially the likes of our wretched selves that caused Him so much pain. God had myriad's of angels for "company," as if He needed any. God has no needs, and did not need to create us. But He did, for some reason I admit I don't understand. Maybe some day I will, but it will take me forever to understand this and all the mysteries. Thank God He has promised my eternity because I'm going to need it. (Heaven is not a boring place!)

On earth, we begin with "acts of contrition." Psalm 51 prays, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (v. 17). "Contrite" literally means injured, torn, wounded. "Acts of contrition" or of the contrite heart involve offering that heart to Christ, whose own heart was "wounded for our transgressions." So my heart and His meet in union. Paul wrote, "[I]ndeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8:17b). Paul also writes about us "completing what is lacking in Christ's suffering."

We wonder, "How can Christ's suffering be incomplete without our participation?" Now we know a bit about that. They are completed when we join our contrite, wounded hearts with His. There is spiritual unity in this, and that is the meaning and point of our Lent practices.

Thank our God Lent ends with our union in Christ's resurrection!

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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