Once, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of fortune-telling and who had brought her owners a great deal of money by predicting the future. She would follow Paul and us and shout, “These men are servants of the Most High God and are proclaiming to you a way of salvation!” (emphasis added)
She kept doing this for many days until Paul became annoyed, turned to her and told the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus the Messiah to come out of her!” And it came out that very moment. (Acts 16:16-18)Now, how did Paul recognize that this young girl was possessed by a demon? Simple. She kept saying that these men proclaimed "a way of salvation". That was a lie straight from the pit of hell. These men were proclaiming THE way of salvation. Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life, not a way, a truth or a life. The lie was very close to the truth - only one word was different, but that word was enough to allow Paul to test the spirit within the girl and discern that the girl's spiritual influence was demonic, not heavenly.
Why do we consider this Scripture today?
Well, some people are upset with Pope Francis.
He recently had the audacity to point out that the Church permits Catholics to accept an idea that these deeply upset people find personally offensive. Pope Francs said:
"He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things.
God is not a divine being (emphasis added) or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."Notice any similarity between Pope Francis' words and the words of the demon-possessed girl? Why yes. Yes, indeed! There is one similarity! The girl said the apostles preached "a way of salvation". Pope Francis denied that God is "a divine being."
Now, Pope Francis merely spoke standard Catholic doctrine - God is not "a god", He is THE GOD. There is no other god. But many Catholics, especially those of "traditionalist" bent, would prefer to be like the people in the Scripture passage below:
When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities who met together in the public square. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are stirring up a lot of trouble in our city. They are Jews and are advocating customs that we’re not allowed to accept or practice as Romans.”Wow. Who is making money by bashing Pope Francis?
The crowd joined in the attack against them. Then the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped of their clothes and ordered them beaten with rods. After giving them a severe beating, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them under tight security. Having received these orders, he put them into the inner cell and fastened their feet in leg irons.
Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (emphasis added) Suddenly, there was an earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken. All the doors immediately flew open, and everyone’s chains were unfastened.
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Don’t hurt yourself, because we are all here!”
The jailer asked for torches and rushed inside. Trembling as he knelt in front of Paul and Silas, he took them outside and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and everyone in his home.
At that hour of the night, he took them and washed their wounds. Then he and his entire family were baptized immediately. He brought Paul and Silas upstairs into his house and set food before them. He was thrilled, as was his household, to believe in God. (Acts 16:19-34)Paul's work bore fruit in conversion, as Pope Francis' work also bears fruit in conversion. Those in prison, that is, those in sin, listened to Paul. Now, many people are upset that luminaries such as Elton John and Planned Parenthood like things this Pope says. So, why would anyone be upset when the Pope teaches what Catholics have always taught, yet manages to do it in a way that even the pagan sinners can begin to recognize?
Sure, some of the pagans twist his words to their own ends and for their own purposes. But are the pagans who twist his words any different than "traditionalist" Catholics, who also twist his words? I honestly don't see how. Francis preaches the Unknown God in the Areopagus and some "Catholics" want to beat him with rods for having done so.
Are these "Catholics" influenced by the same demonic spirit that influenced the young girl in Acts 16? A strong argument can be made that this is precisely what is going on. The traditionalists who attack Pope Francis may well be channeling demonic influences, attempting to split the Church by ignoring the fact that Pope Francis teaches what the Church has always taught.
And that is a sobering thought.