The Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Prince of Darkness, The Evil One, The Antichrist, The Angel of the Bottomless Pit, The Father of Lies, Leviathan, Wicked One – these and many more are all names for the one who is the true enemy of Christians. I am no theologian, but it seems to me that one can not be a Christian without firmly believing in the reality of the devil. To my thinking, we often do not give him his due. He is powerful, resourceful, deceitful, opportunistic, insightful, determined, clever, ever present and persistent. He is never discouraged and never gives-up. Fear the Lord but also respect the devil, for if you do not respect him you will underestimate him.
Whatever the less discerning theologians may say, the devil, as far as Christian belief is concerned, is a puzzling but real, personal and not merely symbolical presence.
Pope Benedict XVI
We are all children of God and therefore intrinsically good, but children none-the-less. We are easily subject to the influence of evil. The devil is what makes free will a choice. He is the other side of the equation and he has an urgent mission. For him (and for us), time is always running out. His window-of-opportunity to win our soul is limited to our mortal lives. The battle is over when we die, at that point he has either succeeded in separating us from God or not.
There are many good analogies. Life is like war against the devil in which there are many battles. We must strive to win every one so the outcome of the war will be certain. Life is like playing a sport where the devil is the opposing team. We must continuously strive to block our opponent from scoring any points and to win each match against him. This war or this game has one complication – we do not know when it ends. We can not be too conservative as the need to stay far ahead is crucial.
We lose battles or give points to the devil when we choose to separate ourselves from God through sin. The devil tempts, but can not force, us to sin. We must make those decisions ourselves. Sin is addicting too, small infrequent sins can easily lead to frequent grave sins unless we are determined to fight every time. It is a mistake to excuse venial (less grave) sins as they are the gateway to mortal sins. The choice is ours and we need not be slaves to sin.
No earthly place is free of the devil. Last week I wrote about the Mass and how it was heaven on earth. It is both heaven and earth joined together, but not purely heaven. The devil is not banished here – we can be tempted and distracted by him even at Mass. He is especially displeased when the faithful participate in the Mass.
The devil is no fan of Jesus nor the Church He founded! She is the major obstacle to his success and Her destruction is paramount. The devil is relentless in pursuit of this objective. Jesus himself told us the devil will fail as “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail” against this Church. This does not unfortunately dissuade the devil from trying.
The Church has ever proved indestructible. Her persecutors have failed to destroy her; in fact, it was during times of persecution that the Church grew more and more; while the persecutors themselves, and those whom the Church would destroy, are the very ones who came to nothing.
St. Thomas Aquinas
No mortal person is free of the devil and every person is tempted by him. Jesus and Mary were, although they saw through his treachery and never succumbed to him. The rest of us have, including all the Apostles, Saints, every Pope, bishop, priest, me and you. Last week I wrote about the sex scandal where parents, teachers, coaches, clergy and others we hold in high esteem have committed dreadful sins. Until we are in heaven, none of us can escape his temptations.
Begone, Satan! The Messiah’s resolute attitude is an example and an invitation for us to follow him with courageous determination. The devil, the “prince of this world,” even today continues his deceitful action. Every man, over and above his own concupiscence and the bad example of others, is also tempted by the devil, and the more so when he is least aware of it.
Pope John Paul II
The devil is a good organizational planner! He prioritizes his focus where it is most needed. In his battle for the souls of some, he may be far ahead. He is pleased by his progress and looks forward to claiming them for his own. Conversely there are others where he is losing the battle. People who resist him with all their will, who love the Lord and each other. These are his special targets, his operational priorities.
The success of the devil in the world and our personal lives is depressing. The good news is we can win. Know your enemy, recognize his tricks. When you fail – examine your conscience, take responsibility, commit to amending your life and receive absolution.
We are to love our enemies and it is sinful to hate. The devil is a special case. Go ahead, hate him. Tell him you do not accept him in your life. Be alert – recognize and resist his temptations. Hold firm when you are tested by the many challenges of life. Pray. This is the most important battle worth fighting and with God’s help, one you will win.