On the Sunday of the healing of the man born blind, a very beautiful epistle was read in churches. The holy Apostle Paul, in his missionary work, was in Philippi with his disciple Silas: “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling” (Acts 16.16). We might be tempted to think that such a text is no longer relevant now. Yet, although the wisdom or science of the world increases, we see that these forms of witchcraft, psychic readings, tarot, etc. are also multiplying. They are the trendiest new thing on YouTube or whatever else people watch nowadays and do appear very interesting. And in this materialistic world, some people look for a bit of spirituality, so when they come across something paranormal, when they see that someone uses divination, they get excited and become involved in these forms— maybe women are more so inclined—not knowing that they are from the cunning one, as it was in the case of the pythoness. So with her spirit of divination, this slave girl guessed and “followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation’” (17).
That is why we wanted to focus on this epistle: the maid was telling the truth; she knew who they were. “And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour” (18). We see that although, paradoxically, she was telling the truth, St. Paul did not let her speak. It is both very interesting and very constructive for us as this falls in line with what the Holy Fathers say: one does not engage with a cunning spirit, with evil thoughts. The enemy ought to be ignored. Do not even try to defend yourself, do not enter a dialogue, do not fight with evil. It is best to ignore it. There were mighty fathers who fought (physically) with evil. That is a different story. As for us, we must ignore evil.
Now, surely, we may ask ourselves how many of us have a divination spirit. It is not our case. Yet we have all kinds of thoughts that tell us things such as, “You are good for nothing, you will never amount to anything, you are a sorry excuse of a man.” These all come from the evil one. How can we tell? The Savior said to the apostles, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7.15–16). And the Holy Fathers tell us that we can apply this same reasoning to thoughts, which are from the enemy, from the false prophets. They appear to assert the truth—“Can’t you see you’re not capable?”—but they come from the evil one. Wolves in sheepskin. They only seem to be the truth. Pay great attention! Because “you will know them by their fruits.”
What do bad thoughts beget in us? Anxiety, confusion, fear, dread. These are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are those mentioned in Galatians: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, purity” (5.22– 23). They are quite different. So when we do not have the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us, but on the contrary, it means that we have received evil thoughts, that we have engaged with them. So the enemy must not be heeded or allowed to speak in us even when it tells the truth. Sometimes it might say, “How did you figure that one out!?” or “How good you are, there is no one like you!” Such thoughts ought not to be allowed either! Because they do not beget repentance. What that slave girl said, the spirit of python in her, did not bring repentance. It only created sensation— nothing more. It did not turn people’s hearts. God does not need a spectacle. He seeks the return of the human heart. And this is done in the deepest recess of man’s heart, as only God knows. He knows how to keep the secret of the heart, He does not encroach upon it, He does not force it but awaits its free return. That is why God does not blind us with miracles. He can perform wonders back-to-back, but that is not important. When the Savior came seeking the heart of man, He sought its free return, out of love, to God.
Therefore, the cunning spirit must not be obeyed even when it speaks the truth. It is an important lesson from today’s epistle, good to put into practice. Father Aimilianos the Simonopetrite, a great twentieth-century saint who died in 2019, tells us: “In general, one must not dwell on thoughts.” It is contrary to what we believe, because we are so used to question why things come to pass, why they happen to us, why this or that, etc. Or as I have noticed, in general with women, the tendency to see certain things as signs and to wonder: “What does God want from me; what does He want to tell me?” There is no point in doing so! It is not good! Father Aimilianos tells us that we must not do it, that the Christian ought not to dwell on thinking. The best metaphor is a small child. He pays no mind to such things. He plays, and if he gets hurt, he cries and runs into his mother’s arms. But most of the time he plays, he rejoices, he smiles. You don’t see him pressed by thoughts or analyzing who knows what. It is a good metaphor for how we need to be. Life in Christ is not analysis, splitting hairs. When we have problems, we tell the Mother of God, the Savior, the saints, and the solution comes. They know. Else, we are free, we live, we rejoice, we smile.
There is too much thinking going on especially nowadays. Thinking as such leads to illness, even of a psychological nature, anxiety, depression, sundry problems. Says Father Aimilianos: “When someone jumps your fence to trespass, you immediately look, you wonder who did it, what happened, why. But if you get used to saying, ‘Story of my life—everyone jumps my fence,’ you no longer know when the robber comes.” It is the same with our state of mind: it keeps us busy all the time and everyone jumps over our fence. And we no longer know what comes from the evil one—the robber and killer of souls. That is why it is safer not to dwell on thoughts as Father Aimilianos said. You have a problem, a dilemma, you pray to the Mother of God, “Enlighten me, Mother of God. Tell me what to do.” And she will not necessarily talk to us, but she will inspire us or send us someone to help. God acts. We must get used to this life in which we entrust our problems, our pain to God, to His Mother, to the saints. This is how we get a solution. We don’t stop to overanalyze things. It doesn’t mean that we should stop thinking altogether because we are not fools either. We use our mind in our work, in everything we need to do. What we suggest here is the manner of approaching those intimate, personal, bigger problems, which we should not rationalize. We hand them over to God and a solution will be found. This is the most important lesson of today’s epistle: Evil must be ignored and ought not to be obeyed even when it tells the truth!