Monday, March 30, 2015

Accepting the possibility that God could love us

Here below is an excerpt from the novel, "The Exorcist", by William Peter Blatty (emphasis mine). Blatty is a devout Catholic and has been interviewed quite frequently on EWTN. In this excerpt, the old and wise exorcist, Fr. Merrin, attempts to explain to the young Fr. Karras the reason or point for why a demon would possess a young and innocent girl. Fr. Karras asks, pointedly, "What's the point?" Indeed. This leads to a brilliant reflection by Fr. Merrin on the intrinsic goodness of human beings and God's unwavering love for them; for us. This awareness is what the devil wants to destroy. Therefore, the target of this possession was not the innocent girl but rather the observers -- those living in the house -- who have to watch this unfold.
The two priests stepped into the warmth and the dimness of the hall and leaned wearily against the wall.

Karras listened to the eerie, muffled singing from within. After some moments, he spoke softly to Merrin. “You said—you said earlier there was only… one entity.”


The hushed tones, the lowered heads, were confessional.

“All the others are but forms of attack,” continued Merrin. “There is one… only one. It is a demon.” There was a silence. Then Merrin stated simply, “I know you doubt this. But you see, this demon… I have met once before. And he is powerful… powerful….”

A silence. Karras spoke again. “We say the demon… cannot touch the victim’s will.”

“Yes, that is so… that is so… There is no sin.”

“Then what would be the purpose of possession?” Karras said, frowning. “What’s the point?”

“Who can know?” answered Merrin. “Who can really hope to know?” He thought for a moment. And then probingly continued: “Yet I think the demon’s target is not the possessed; it is us… the observers… every person in this house. And I think—I think the point is to make us despair; to reject our own humanity, Damien: to see ourselves as ultimately bestial; as ultimately vile and putrescent; without dignity; ugly; unworthy. And there lies the heart of it, perhaps: in unworthiness. For I think belief in God is not a matter of reason at all; I think it finally is matter of love; of accepting the possibility that God could love us…”

Again Merrin paused. He continued more slowly and with a hush of introspection: ‘He knows… the demon knows where to strike….” He was nodding. “Long ago I despaired of ever loving my neighbor. Certain people… repelled me. How could I love them? I thought. It tormented me, Damien; it led me to despair of myself… and from that, very soon, to despair of my God. My faith was shattered….”

Karras looked up at Merrin with interest. “And what happened?” he asked.

“Ah, well… at last I realized that God would never ask of me that which I know to be psychologically impossible; that the love which He asked was in my will and not meant to be felt as emotion at all. Not at all. He was asking that I act with love; that I do unto others; and that I should do it unto those who repelled me, I believe, was a greater act of love than any other.” He shook his head. “I know that all of this must seem very obvious, Damien. I know. But at the time I could not see It. Strange blindness. How many husbands and wives,” he uttered sadly, “must believe they have fallen out of love because their hearts no longer race at the sight of their beloveds! Ah, dear God!” He shook his head; and then nodded. “There it lies, I think, Damien… possession; not in wars, as some tend to believe; not so much; and very seldom in extraordinary interventions such as here… this girl… this poor child. No, I see it most often in the little things, Damien: in the senseless, petty spites; the misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the tongue between friends. Between lovers. Enough of these,” Merrin whispered, “and we have no need of Satan to manage our wars; these we manage for ourselves… for ourselves….”

The lilting singing could still be heard in the bedroom. Merrin looked up at the door and listened for a moment. “And yet even from this—from evil—will come good. In some way. In some way that we may never understand or ever see.” Merrin paused. “Perhaps evil is the crucible of goodness,” he brooded. “And perhaps even Satan—Satan, in spite of himself—somehow serves to work out the will of God.

He said no more, and for a time they stood in silence while Karras reflected. Another objection came to mind. “Once the demon’s driven out,” he probed, “what’s to keep it from coming back in?”

“I don’t know,” Merrin answered. “I don’t know. And yet it never seems to happen. Never. Never.”

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