Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

In my last two columns I wrote about the so-called “black mass” that has been scheduled at our Civic Center in Oklahoma City. I do not want to write about it again. A quick scan of the alarming threats to peace and stability around the world might make all the attention we are focusing on this “black mass” seem incredibly myopic. 

We have all seen the troubling images and heard the alarming reports. The accounts of Christians being beheaded and crucified by ISIS in Iraq are raising concerns about genocide. Christians have now been expelled from the city of Mosul in northern Iraq where they had lived peacefully for more than 1,500 years. 

The simmering kettle of unrest throughout the Middle East seems ready to boil over with unthinkable consequences. Civil war in Syria rages on. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been displaced, flooding neighboring countries with refugees and creating a humanitarian disaster in the region.

The seemingly endless conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has flared up again in Gaza, leading to tragic losses of life on both sides of the militarized border. By far, the great majority of victims in this savage conflict have been innocent civilians, especially women and children.

Troubling news of civil war in Ukraine and high stakes saber rattling are raising the specter of the renewal of Cold War hostilities between East and West.

Tens of thousands of children, driven from their homes in Central America by violence and fear, have made the perilous journey to our borders where they seek safety and security.

Closer to home we are witnessing a rapid erosion of our religious liberties and the gradual, but relentless, efforts to marginalize religious institutions to prevent them from assuming their proper place in civil society: serving the poor and marginalized, caring for the sick, and so much more. Marriage, historically recognized as the bedrock of family and society, is being redefined by our civil courts, so as to render the term itself meaningless. 

Where does it end? We are witnessing massive social and civil unrest around the globe. I am citing this catalogue of dangers not to alarm, but only to point out that this is the context in which we ought to understand what is taking place with the unexpected intrusion of this “black mass” threat in our community. 

Perhaps the silver lining presented by this sacrilegious act (if there can be one) is that it will be a wake-up call. Perhaps it will serve as a reminder that behind many of the alarming threats to our human family, our nation and our own lives, lurks something more insidious than ignorance, human weakness or even political or ideological differences.

St. Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph 6:10). Why is it that even in the Church we rarely speak of such things? This is an integral part of our faith. Jesus Christ has come to disarm these principalities and powers, to conquer Satan and to claim victory through the power of his Cross and Resurrection. He calls us to repent of our sins and to believe in his victory.

As people of faith we do not lose heart, or lose hope. Christ has conquered. We conquer in Christ! “Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil” (Eph 6:10,11).

Let’s not give the devil more credit than he deserves.  Jesus Christ is Lord!