The ARM of St. Michael
Jesus gave all the perfect prayer, which concludes with the request "...but deliver us from evil".
The earlier personal petition prayers of an addict might ask: "God, please take this awful affliction away from me, that I may cease being tormented and find peace". There is also the version: "God, let me be free from all evil", perhaps hoping for painless existence or instant recovery.
A life containing no problem of evil is not what the Savior reveals about the providence in the Our Father. 'Deliver us from evil' speaks of inevitable contact with evil, and likely in repeated instance. Several ways this may occur:
Through stupidity, pride, spiteful anger or entitlement - making the miserable choice of sin - knowing something is clearly wrong, and within one's power to avoid, but doing it anyway. Pride goes before the fall.
Through haplessness, hating contact with evil, but having no power to somehow not want it either, the frail error of poor memory, deeply ingrained habit or physiological addiction.
Through suffering unprovoked attacks, possibly brought on by forgotten or a carelessly discarded sense of personal vulnerability; or when, having sleeping dreams of lust which generate physiological arousal (while guilty of no sin but waking up "underwater"), which in turn escalate into the wildfire of conscious obsession.
By unconscious and unsought play or replay of obsessive material, an addict can in a moment be suddenly escorted to an old battlefront, where new, unruly fire may swipe and scar. The appearance of temptation reveals reality, of earthly life struggle, and the concrete opportunity of deliverance.
Deliverance is not just an idea that sounds good, a tidy script or simulacrum of the kind. Salvation is not a rehearsal, lest anyone forget that life-journey is live.To be delivered from evil is an event.
Temptation is uniquely irreducible and serious. Indeed just one intention earlier, we had asked not to be lead into it. Yet when it comes, when any evil comes, our grace-dependent prayer becomes extraordinarily focused; "Lord, get me out of these evil thoughts and desires! Because, you know I have an ample history of becoming one with such things!"
After decades of the same frustrating tests and failures, an addict can't help sometimes becoming weary and anxious, even while praying through the latest trial. God never seems to move as quickly as preferred nor renders safety somehow securely as we would like. God seems to respond with the same gentle inexorable rhythm of the human body itself, 'the patience of stars', and permits recurring orbits of temptation, that we might be humbled to just how pure purity actually is, or perhaps to grasp better the nature of justice or penance due from sin.
Agonizing as temptation may prove, we may have not yet learned to slow down, pay attention, trust in God, wait on the Lord, have faith. How many times does deliverance appear, not instantaneously, but ineffably,gradually, just on the other side of "can this get any worse or take any longer?" In other words, "after we have suffered a little while."
Deliverance has a truly mystical substance and in therapy work we may rehearse well our incapacity to save ourselves, and to surrender. Yet, under the seemingly relentless siege of seduction, we might pull up short declaring "Lord, I can't pray with every breath and heartbeat!". He may reply "...you are not worthy of Me...". Chase Him further!In the spirit of the Syro-Phoenician woman, say finally, desperately: "If you do not save me, I shall perish Father, I boast in my nothingness and incapability."
Long time failure in the simple event of temptation seems to prevent the very possibility of believing in deliverance. Dawn seems to come late, a test of waiting, but it comes. We must have faith.
He allows us to be tested in an absolute way:My Strength? or your weakness? It seems beyond us. Yet it is not. He is making us stronger than we think we can be. Just like that, the ancient breathless reflex of fear breaks way to hope, having been spurred to "hope more than you think you can hope". Hope not in thyself but in God, in the power of prayer.
Deliverance is the Lord's mercy, but does not seem exacted without collaboration. We must pray and with all our strength. We must be determined to be a warrior -surrenderer. We must show up and make effort in the midst of battle. There may be multiple confessions inside a week long deluge; each one bringing enough grace to effect the final victory of deliverance from demonic attack.
Days after fever and invisible fog have abated, may come the tender revelation of the gift of the trial. God seems to grow us and even heal us most during the time of darkness, in storms. Truths about weakness and strength may only be able to be glimpsed within the cyclonic eye of tumult. Every temptation is an opportunity to move forward on the path of virtue, a chance to step up by surrender and its perfectly dispatched prayer for deliverance.
God has reasons for working finely and unrushed. Sometimes in the midst of a trial the lesson may be simply: stay calm. It is impossible to accept temptation any other way except with presence, and the only way to obtain presence is to remain calm. We may be receiving the teaching do not be afraid, or to remember perhaps for the first time ever and believe: have faith, I Am with you (yes, actually, unthinkably, right now in the middle of this trial!).
We arrive at paradox: God will save me with my Savior's blood and my own unremitting prayer, reaching out and hope. Jesus delivers the grace of self-mastery, by our ardent, patient, sincere and relentless request. Stay calm, do not fear, pray, wait...
Coming through, there will be the unexpected affirmation of beautiful music or flowers. Spontaneous blessings may appear. The Almighty, we imagine, keeps smiling silence.
As time allows full assimilation, our little creature is staggered at the exquisite, intricate work of the Redeemer God. Yes, recovery is that finely enacted, step by step. "Refined like silver, seven times in the refiner's fire" sound like easy words. What it sounds like, what it is, are two different things. He takes us through many passages of refinement. Who are the ones strong enough to say, Thy will be done? And:If You lead me to it You will lead me through it.
The Franciscans place placards about with the simple word through. Not around, over or under, but through. Through many hardships, the pathway to peace:real, actual, paid for, -struggled for -, peace. Fruit of our determined, persevering faith and adamant, spirited request, and the blood of the Divine Lamb; ransomed, purchased at a price, delivered from evil.
One day, if we persevere to the end, there will be no more storm coming. Can we even imagine such a thing, when all our life may have shown us a long troublous litany of spiritual danger?
Have faith, have faith.Jesus, let us have increased faith Amen.