The early monks knew about the tactics that demons use to tempt us:
The first method is social, the demons attempt to preserve the monks’ social nature by trying to engage the monks’ memories of relatives who are either grieving or dying, or are held captive [in a debtors prison] and it’s all the monk’s fault. The reality is that the monastic life cannot be lived without a withdrawal from family and friends.1
In our Gospel today, the demons cry out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth. Have you come to destroy us?”
The demon uses the object pronoun “us,” which is non-binary, to refer to the many demons possessing the person. Notice that Jesus responds in the singular, “Quiet! Come out of him! Literally, “be muzzled.”
The early Christian monks knew that as far as surrendering our relatives or children go, this includes surrendering our children’s entitled life. It means trusting God not only with their safety, their decisions, and their future but also with the kind of life I think they should have. At some point, we all have to surrender to God not only our children, but the life we want for our children. 3
Inthe second method of warfare the demons tempt the monks’ physical body with restlessness and agitation, drowsiness, or thoughts of leaving the monastery to get married and for romance. The goal is to thwart their vocation and prayer life by disturbing their concentration which happens to be the very means of achieving mastery over the demons. Prayer with the heart involves concentration and a well-known saying of the monks is that demonsfear concentration as thieves fear dogs.”
“The demon is very envious of us when we pray, and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose. Therefore he is always using our memory to stir up thoughts of various things and our flesh to arouse the passions, in order to obstruct our way of ascent to God.
The third tactic of the demon is the most dangerous and it’s called the darts of the enemy, which the novena prayer of Divine Mercy of Saint Faustina mentions. Specifically, the demons try to “darken the mind” of the monk “and then they will suggest whatever they like.
The monks called this a mental trick of the demon, using the phrase the “flick of the mind” (pararrhipismon noos). There is nothing swifter or more indiscernible among spirits. It manifests itself in the soul by a simple remembrance, which is instantaneous, independent, inapprehensible, and, in some cases, even unknown to the person himself. By manipulating the monk’s mind, the demons disable the monk’s ability both to understand and to resist the demonic warfare.
The solution is 2 Cor. 10:5: bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Method four is pride, that the monk has made great progress so they can rest on their laurels. The demons achieve this by withdrawing from the monk, bringing a temporary end to the warfare, which in turn creates the image that the monk has already arrived at perfection. In other words, the demons become an angel of light so that the monk remains vulnerable to a future attack.
Jesus tells us in Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”
The term for authority has the primary reference to one’s right to exercise that right.
Our Gospel begins with “and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.” Be confident in your right to exercise your authority to rebuke temptation and not give in all the more so if you are worshipping regularly at Sunday Mass.
1. Evagrius of Pontus
2. LISA APPELO. Surrendering Our Children To God Means Surrendering Their Entitled Life, blog.