By the late Father Kilian McGowan, C.P.
A recent TV mystery thriller presented a most absorbing story of a talented artist who made a contract with the devil and wound up by losing his soul. It was good in making the devil very real, but poor in making the artist too powerless. For there are two mistakes commonly made regarding the devil-to underrate his abilities, or to overestimate his powers.
Of one thing we can be sure-the devil exists! He is a brilliant, though completely misguided, genius. He has angelic knowledge and a profound insight into your weaknesses. He is a shrewd and talented director using every possible trick to achieve his end-to drag you into the pits of hell forever. He is your enemy and he hates you-just as he hates God!
In any total warfare the first aim of prudent strategy must be to know your enemy, his strengths and weaknesses, and the strategy he’ll pursue. This is true, above all, in the warfare of life. To be blind to the existence, the deceits, and the cunning of the devil is like an ostrich burying its head in the sand-you’re going to get your wings clipped!
The greatest success of the devil in this age has been to convince a lot of people that he doesn’t exist-that he belongs in the same category as goblins and fairies. He laughs at this stupidity as he goes underground where he can do his dirty work unobserved and undetected. Here this fifth columnist works untiringly to undermine the work of God in your soul.
If some make themselves an easy prey to the devil by denying his reality, others may go to the other extreme and blame everything on him…even the things they do on their own.
Let us not forget that the world and the flesh are also an abundant source of temptation. And while the devil does use these for his own ends, some people are push-overs even before the devil appears on the scene.
But let us consider the strategy that the devil uses on good people who are sincerely striving to love and serve God. In general, he tries to blow them up with pride and then cast them down by discouragement. He does everything in his power to stimulate their desire to dominate, to rule, to be esteemed, all of which are contrary to the humility and simplicity preached by our Lord.
He encourages what appear as virtues, but what are really mockeries of true virtue. The devil may inspire mortification, for example, but only of the “showy” variety-especially where it can be observed by others. Never does he encourage self-denial of our will, our judgment, or our opinions. Yet, our Lord told us to deny ourselves.
The devil tempts us to a show of piety and pious practices where it can be seen and esteemed. He very cleverly teaches a hundred and one ways of drawing attention to one’s self-tempting one to be an exhibitionist either in dress or actions. He gets otherwise good women to wear styles that not only sin against modesty, but also against charity by the temptations they cause others.
He tries to attract a spiritual person to the sensational and the extraordinary, hoping thereby to distract him from the essential though hidden means of sanctification. He encourages a false humility that is proud of appearing humble and depreciating itself publicly.
The devil stirs up a false hope in our souls by making us depend more on our good works than on the saving mercy of God. He tempts us to sin and then tells us to give up. He wants us to be impatient with ourselves and our failings just to make us vexed, confused, and overanxious in general. He shows his face in a bitter and critical zeal that is opposed to true charity.
Of another thing be sure-you can beat him down and you can do it every time. But you can’t do it alone! That would be like trying to take on an armored division with your bare hands! You need humility to make you depend on the grace of God. You need prayer to make the strength of God your own.
You need the spiritual help of the sacraments to keep up your defenses. You need the help of that Victress of all God’s battles-Mary, the Mother of God. Above all, you need Christ, her divine Son who destroyed the power of Satan forever on a hill called Calvary. You need, finally, contempt for the devil. For while he is very real and very powerful, he is still powerless when you use well these weapons of God. So, use them well-and often!
With thanks to www.cukierski.net
Used with permission, from the Passionist Priests, to help spiritually guide the layman.