Vampires are real!
as told by Deborah
Jesus said to the disciples, "A rich man had a manager who had been skimming from the company finances. So he called the manager into his office and said, ‘I’ve heard about you! Bring me the accounts — you’re finished.’
“The manager walked away in shock, ’What will happen to me when I lose my job?’ he asked himself, ‘I am not strong enough for physical labor, and I am too proud to beg….’ Then he smiled slyly, ‘I know! I’ll do something so, after I’m fired, I’ll have a lot of friends.’
“So, he contacted his master's debtors and met with them, one by one.
“He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my boss?’ ‘Fifty quarts of olive oil,’ the man answered. ‘Take your bill, and cut it in half,” the manager told him. The next owed a hundred barrels of flour. ‘Take your bill and make it eighty,’ the manager said.
“And so he went, on down the line.
“And his boss commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness; for the children of this age know how to deal with their own far more shrewdly than do the children of light.
“So I tell you, make friends for yourselves using dishonest wealth — and when it is gone, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.
“One who is faithful in small things is faithful in big things, too; and one who is dishonest in small things is dishonest in big ones, as well. So, if you haven’t been faithful with dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.”
Our bodies, our minds, our souls are holy gifts from God. We are called to be good stewards of these gifts: to nourish, develop, maintain, and protect them. We are also called to care for one another, particularly the weak and the vulnerable. This is a holy calling.
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It is tempting to deny or dismiss, ignore or excuse troubling signs or evidence. No one wants to believe that such things can happen, but they do, with troubling frequency — in “nice” families, in “good Christian” households, in every socio-economic category, every ethnic group, in every age range.
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This is a strange, disorienting teaching; Jesus’ initial comment seems to advise acting dishonesty in order to get ahead in the world — as if it is something we ought to do. However, if we use that system, those rewards are what we will receive. His words are actually a warning: resist the temptation to behave in worldly ways: to cheat as they cheat, to do unto others as they do unto us — otherwise we will end up welcomed into “their eternal dwellings” (the grave). True riches come only through scrupulous honesty, to faithfulness to what is right — not what is expedient, or what we can get away with. This parable is a variation on the warning: “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves.”
While money is often the primary focus, worldly deceit and dishonesty extend beyond finances. Power, control, authority, strength, vitality — these forms of wealth are coveted with equal passion, sought-after as anxiously, pursued with as much ferocity as gold or silver.
For a time I worked with a woman who, every week, without fail, spent several hours with an aging relative who not a particularly nice person — quite the opposite, in fact, but Bella was a good-hearted soul and believed it was the right thing to do: “Otherwise," she insisted, "he’ll be all alone.” We always knew when the visit had occurred, because she would be oddly quiet, pale, and physically exhausted for a couple of days afterwards. Bella’s energy and color would gradually return … in time for the next visit. The effect was so pronounced that our supervisor talked to her about what was going on.
Despite the discomfort, Bella faithfully continued her visits until — blessedly! — she broke her ankle. Unable to drive due to the cast, as well as the not inconsiderable pain, she had to forego the weekly travel for nearly seven weeks. She never looked better.
Shortly after this time her relative died.
Bella was very upset by the death, and blamed herself — as if, by her visits, she had been responsible for keeping the old man alive. And perhaps, in a way, she had been.
After every encounter Bella suffered symptoms resembling those of blood loss: she became pale, wan, weak, listless. It was as if something was draining her life force. With hindsight and experience, I realize that, in her innocence, Bella was being robbed of her health and vitality by a spiritual vampire.
Yes. They really exist. But, unlike their cinematic counterparts, these vampires are neither charming nor sexy nor comical; they are not champions of freedom or exemplars of adolescent angst. They are vicious, malicious beings who drain life and joy from others.
In some peculiar way these beings seem to gain energy as they drag others down. Words of encouragement, affection, or gratitude never pass their lips; instead, they demean every effort, scorn every improvement, ignore every success, stamp out any trace of happiness. Their persistent pessimism and unceasing contempt casts shadows that could dim the noonday sun.
These vampires are not necessarily ancient or ugly or fond of sleeping in coffins; their teeth are indistinguishable from yours and mine. They roam about in broad daylight, working normal jobs, wearing normal clothes, speaking in normal voices (not Transylvanian accents). They may be physically attractive. All of the ugliness and rot are within: a spoilage infecting their souls; an icy, deathless chill freezing their hearts; and an absolute terror of the Light — denying and demeaning all that is good and beautiful and life-giving, delighting in all that is bleak and dank and dire.
Spiritual vampires also possess an uncanny ability to fascinate us with their tales of hopelessness, violence, death, and destruction. We are hypnotized, drawn in, demeaned, depersonalized, and depressed; gradually becoming unquestioning slaves of their vile, soul-decaying vision — while they grow ever-stronger.
Creatures such as these may have been who Jesus was describing when he spoke of “whitened sepulchers”: their cool and pristine exteriors concealing putrefaction, decomposition, and death. There is no health in them.
Their sole interest is in what they can see and control, manage and manipulate. They have no belief in “heavenly rewards” or the hereafter, their only concern is their own lives and livelihoods, which they feed and defend with pitiless zeal, careless of who may be hurt — often using, as Bella’s elderly relative did, the innocent and the unwary as shields and defenders and sources of energy.
"No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”
As Jesus warned us, if we adopt the ways of the world, we will reap those rewards: empty lives and elaborate tombs. We have to choose, and choose wisely; we cannot serve two masters, we cannot follow two paths. We can succumb to worldly cynicism and despair, devoured by hatred, resentment, and suspicion — or we can live in the light of radiant hope and boundless courage, nourishing our souls and the souls of those around us with compassion and kindness.
It is no coincidence that tradition claims that vampires are repelled by the sight of the Cross, the symbol of the One who blesses and encourages and empowers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the antithesis of spiritual vampires: giving where they take, nourishing where they devour, enlivening where they destroy.
"By their fruits you will know them."
~ Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:44
These vampires fit no standard type: they are of no particular age or appearance, they may be anyone, anywhere. We will know them by the effect they have upon us: our energy drained, our confidence eroded, our joys evaporated, our dreams turned to dust. We are exhausted, sad and cynical, often deeply depressed — while they grow ever-stronger: feeding on our emotions, devouring our souls. We find ourselves weak and weary, mindlessly agreeing with their words, blindly following their lead, stumbling in the darkness.
It is a form of abuse, a criminal theft: trying to cheat us of our very lives.
Realize that breaking free from the spell may not be easy. These vampires are addicted to the power and energy others provide and, like all addicts, will rail and shriek and curse and condemn when their supply is threatened; accusing us of deceit, delusions, or betrayal. Or they may whine and wheedle, playing on our sympathy.
Look to the Light, follow the Lord: be strong, be just, be fair. As with any illness — physical, emotional, or spiritual — those in its thrall are deserving of compassion, and in need of the gift of healing prayer. Spiritual vampires have succumbed to worldly riches; drunk on energy, power, and strength — idolizing Mammon, rather than worshipping the God of love and life.
Just as with forgiveness, understanding of the wickedness is not negation of the deed, nor is it permission for the harm to continue. Our compassion is not acceptance, but recognition of damaged and disordered souls. Physical safety and sanity may require that we enact the classic prayer, “God bless you and keep you — far away from me.”
If contact with a vampire is unavoidable — if it is a coworker, fellow student, employer, or family member — rely on the classic teaching to disable its power. Trust in the Cross: answer the shadows with Light; respond to tales of despair with stories of compassion and kindness, reply to gray hopelessness with what is healing and good. This does not entail preaching, or the use of “religious” language, only an open, honest recognition of the presence of beauty and joy in our world. Chances are that such talk will repulse the creature — but it is possible that it might change its life.
Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.
~ attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
Tempting as it is to try other methods of vampire abatement such as wearing a necklace of garlic or thrusting a crucifix in front of its face; these are risky and unreliable — but enormously fun to imagine!
A confession: At one place where I worked we tried sprinkling salt across the threshold, but — alas! — our tormentor crossed over without a pause. This was also the nearest I’ve ever come to dying from suppressed laughter when, about halfway through the meeting, a coworker IM’d: “Next time we’ll use more salt.”
The reality is that all of us have the capacity to become spiritual vampires, seeking power, energy, enthusiasm, and strength from a source other than the One who gives life. Ironically, that very temptation may lead us into the shadows: in trying to draw energy from another, we may fall under that person’s power — and our disordered desire become our downfall.
Unlike those who seek to steal our lifeblood, the Lord Christ gives us life and hope and vitality. The ancient teaching of “the power of the blood of the Lamb” — which we recoil from because it strikes us as gory and icky: too literal for our modern taste — is an affirmation of the concrete reality of His participation in our world and of God’s power. In Christ Jesus God gives God’s all to love and understand us, and to give us abundant life.
May Christ’s grace and healing love abound,
When have you encountered spiritual vampires?
When have you sought to draw energy and enthusiasm from another person?