I have a cousin named Ray who is about 6-7 years older than I am. Being a really nice kid, Ray was happy to play with his little cousins, even though we were much younger than he was. When our families got together, there would be major wrestling matches going on in the family room as the adults enjoyed dinner in the dining room. It was pretty much everyone against Ray. But Ray was so much bigger and stronger that, despite being outnumbered, he handled us with ease. Finally, bruised and exhausted, we turned to the only one we knew could defeat Ray – my dad. We would run into the dining room in a panic and call on my father to fight Ray on our behalf. “Hold my beer,” he’d say as he excused himself from the table and proceeded to the family room. We cheered him on as he whupped up on poor Ray, who never stood a chance. Having reduced Ray to a disgraced and crumpled mess on the ground, my father returned in triumph to his place at the table. And to his beer.
We have come to the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from Evil.” The evil to which the petition refers is not generic evil. It is a personal evil – the “Evil One,” who is the Devil. Tradition tells us that the Devil is a fallen angel, originally created good, who led a self-destructive rebellion against God which left him twisted and evil. The Devil hates God, but knowing himself to be powerless against Him, Satan directs his wrath against those whom God loves, namely, us. The Evil One is far more powerful than we are, so we are foolish to engage him on our own. Indeed, we should resist the temptation to be fascinated by the things of the Evil One, such as the occult, which promise power and freedom, but which deliver nothing but slavery and destruction. Satan is merciless. He is ruthless in his efforts to separate us from divine mercy and to make us despair of God’s love for us. Praying this petition, writes Fr. Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, “is an urgent appeal that God enter the arena where our destiny is being fought out in a life-and-death struggle, that he engage combat as our Hero and Deliverer, since we have already given up all pretense at being able to save ourselves.”
I think of my father pushing back from the table to enter the arena against my cousin Ray on our behalf, and then returning to the banquet after accomplishing his great victory, and it reminds me of Our Lord’s great act of redemption. “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:5-11). The Evil One is confounded by the saving action of Christ because Our Lord saved us in a way inconceivable to him – not through the exercise of power, but through weakness. Christ Jesus became weak and accepted death out of love for us. He rose from the dead because He is more powerful than death, and shared His resurrection with us because He desires to spend eternity with us in heaven. The Devil only knows power. But the love of God is more powerful than power. And with this last petition, we call upon Him in our weakness, knowing that Our Father is infinitely more powerful than the Evil One, whom He conquers on our behalf through His weakness.