In yesterday’s Gospel reading, John 12:20-33, there was one line that struck me as it questioned my understanding that the prince of this world remains so, and I went to a marvelous resource from the Holy See, Congregation for the Clergy, which provides commentary from many sources on scripture and found this from a sermon by Saint Augustine which cleared it up wonderfully.
First, the line and the one before and after from the Gospel of John.
30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. 31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
The excerpt from St. Augustine.
“7. Attend, in short, to His own words. For just as if we had been inquiring what He meant by saying, “Now is the judgment of the world,” He proceeded to explain it when He says, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” What we have thus heard was the kind of judgment He meant. Not that one, therefore, which is yet to come in the end, when the living and dead shall be judged, some of them set apart on His right hand, and the others on His left; but that judgment by which “the prince of this world shall be cast out.” In what sense, then, was he within, and whither did He mean that he was to be cast out? Was it this: That he was in the world and was cast forth beyond its boundaries? For had He been speaking of that judgment which is yet to come in the end, some one’s thoughts might have turned to that eternal fire into which the devil is to be cast with his angels, and all who belong to him;-that is, not naturally, but through moral delinquency; not because he created or begat them, but because he persuaded and kept hold of them: some one, therefore, might have thought that that eternal fire was outside the world, and that this was the meaning of the words, “he shall be cast out.” But as He says, “Now is the judgment of this world,” and in explanation of His meaning, adds, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” we are thereby to understand what is now being done, and not what is to be, so long afterwards, at the last day. The Lord, therefore, foretold what He knew, that after His own passion and glorification, many nations throughout the whole world, in whose hearts the devil was an inmate, would become believers, and the devil, when thus renounced by faith, is cast out.
“8. But some one says, Was he then not cast out of the hearts of the patriarchs and prophets, and the righteous of olden time? Certainly he was. How, then, is it said, “Now he shall be cast out”? How else can we think of it, but that what was then done in the case of a very few individuals, was now foretold as speedily to take place in many and mighty nations? Just as also that other saying, “For the Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified,” may suggest a similar inquiry, and find a similar solution. For it was not without the Holy Spirit that the prophets predicted the events of the future; nor was it so that the aged Simeon and the widowed Anna knew by the Holy Spirit the infant Lord; and that Zacharias and Elisabeth uttered by the Holy Spirit so many predictions concerning Him, when He was not yet born, but only conceived. But “the Spirit was not yet given;” that is, with that abundance of spiritual grace which enabled those assembled together to speak in every language, and thus announce beforehand in the language of every nation the Church of the future: and so by ’this spiritual grace it was that nations were gathered into congregations, sins were pardoned far and wide, and thousands of thousands were reconciled unto God.
“9. But then, says some one, since the devil is thus cast out of the hearts of believers, does he now tempt none of the faithful? Nay, verily, he does not cease to tempt. But it is one thing to reign within, another to assail from without; for in like manner the best fortified city is sometimes attacked by an enemy without being taken. And if some of his arrows are discharged, and reach us, the apostle reminds us how to render them harmless, when he speaks of the breastplate and the shield of faith. And if he sometimes wounds us, we have the remedy at hand. For as the combatants are told, “These things I write unto you, that ye sin not:” so those who are wounded have the sequel to listen to, “And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins.” And what do we pray for when we say, “Forgive us our debts,” but for the healing of our wounds? And what else do we ask, when we say, “Lead us not into temptation,” but that he who thus lies in wait for us, or assails us from without, may fail on every side to effect an entrance, and be unable to overcome us either by fraud or force? Nevertheless, whatever engines of war he may erect against us, so long as he has no more a place in the heart that faith inhabits, he is cast out. But “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Presume not, therefore, about yourselves, if you would not have the devil, who has once been cast out, to be recalled within.
“10. On the other hand, let us be far from supposing that the devil is called in any such way the prince of the world, as that we should believe him possessed of power to rule over the heaven and the earth. The world is so spoken of in respect of wicked men, who have overspread the whole earth; just as a house is spoken of in respect to its inhabitants, and we accordingly say, It is a good house, or a bad house; not as finding fault with, or approving of, the erection of walls and roofs, but the morals either of the good or the bad within it. In a similar way, therefore, it is said, “The prince of this world;” that is, the prince of all the wicked who inhabit this world. The world is also spoken of in respect to the good, who in like manner have overspread the whole earth; and hence the apostle says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” These are they out of whose hearts the prince of this world is ejected.
“11. Accordingly, after saying, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” He added, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things19 after me.” And what “all” is that, but those out of which the other is ejected? But He did not say, All men, but “all things;” for all men have not faith. And, therefore, He did not allude to the totality of men, but to the creature in its personal integrity, that is, to spirit, and soul, and body; or all that which makes us the intelligent, living, visible, and palpable beings we are. For He who said, “Not a hair of your head shall perish,” is He who draweth all things after Him. Or if by “all things” it is men that are to be understood, we can speak of all things that are foreordained to salvation: of all which He declared, when previously speaking of His sheep, that not one of them would be lost. And of a certainty all classes of men, both of every language and every age, and all grades of rank, and all diversities of talents, and all the professions of lawful and useful arts, and all else that can be named in accordance with the innumerable differences by which men, save in sin alone, are mutually separated, from the highest to the lowest, and from the king to the beggar, “all,” He says, “will I draw after me;” that He may be their head, and they His members. But this will be, He adds, “if I be lifted up from the earth,” that is, when I am lifted up; for He has no doubt of the future accomplishment of that which He came to fulfill. He here alludes to what He said before: “But if the corn of wheat die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” For what else did He signify by His lifting up, than His suffering on the cross, an explanation which the evangelist himself has not omitted; for he has appended the words, “And this He said signifying what death He should die.”