Page last updated at 01:04 UTC, Monday, 20 January 2020 PH
Every Christian familiar with the Old Testament knows that from the beginning of creation, the devil is a very real creature who is constantly trying to lure human beings away from their Creator. He can take several forms and in the case of the temptation of our first parents, Adam and Eve, he was disguised as a serpent. As ever, today he is very active and takes no vacation. In a publication entitled “Letter to a Suffering Church,” Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, California and a most famous media personality in the U.S., describes in lurid details the role of the devil in the sexual abuse scandal in which Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals have been convicted during the last twenty to thirty years, especially in North America. There is no question that these tragic criminal acts committed by the Catholic clergy have been “lacerating” to millions of Catholics, and especially for the victim-survivors.
Without excusing the abusers for their cooperation with the devil, Bishop Barron points out that the whole affair has been a “diabolical masterpiece.” To quote him: “When I was going through the seminary, it was fashionable to conceive of the devil as a symbol for the evil in the world, a sort of colorful literary device. But the storm of wickedness that has compromised the work of the Church in every way and has left countless lives in ruins is just too ingenious to have been the result of impersonal forces alone or merely human contrivance. It seems so thoroughly thought through, so comprehensively intentional. Certainly, in the ordinary run of history, bad things happen, but this scandal is just too exquisitely designed. It has corroded Catholic credibility so completely that the Catholic work in evangelization, catechesis, preaching, outreach to the poor, recruitment of vocations, and education has been crippled. And most terribly, members of the Church, especial its most vulnerable, have been forced to live through a nightmare from which it seems impossible to wake. If the Church had a personal enemy—and indeed the devil is known as the enemy of the human race—it is hard to imagine that he could have come up with a better plan.”
Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation entitled “Be Glad and Rejoice” issues a similar warning against the wiles and devices of the devil. He makes it clear that in the spiritual combat of every human being to be a saint, we are not dealing merely with a battle against the world and a worldly mentality that would deceive us and leave us dull and mediocre, lacking in enthusiasm and joy. Nor can this battle that each person wages to attain his eternal destiny a mere struggle against our human weaknesses and proclivities (such as laziness, lust, envy, greed, jealousy or pride). It is also a never-ending struggle against the devil, the prince of evil. We read in the Gospel that Jesus Himself celebrates our victories against the devil. He rejoiced when his disciples made progress in preaching the Gospel and overcoming the opposition of the evil one: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). When Christ taught the apostles the “Our Father”, he clearly wanted them to conclude the prayer by asking the Father to “deliver us from evil.” That final word does not mean evil in the abstract. In fact, a more exact translation would be “the evil one.” We are praying that God deliver us from a personal being who assails us. Jesus taught us to ask daily for deliverance from this evil one, lest his power prevail over us.
A very subtle temptation of the devil is to make us believe that he is a myth, no different from what in the vernacular we call an “aswang”, a ghost. If we fall into this error, we would let down our guard, grow careless and end up even more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He just has to poison us with the venom of hatred, desolation, despair, envy, lust, greed and other forms of vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. As we say in the Prayer to St. Michael, which we should pray very frequently and not only after Mass, the devil is “like a roaring lion, prowling around the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Although the devil is pure spirit and has a different form of existence from us human beings, we can still metaphorically refer to him as “alive and kicking”, always aggressively looking for ways of leading us astray, especially the older we get. As we approach the grave, he wants to make sure that he can pull us down to the abyss of eternal fire.
If we have faith, we can be sure that our Father God will deliver us from the evil one. As Pope Francis wrote in “Be Glad and Rejoice,” for our spiritual combat with the devil, “the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental reconciliation, works of mercy, community life, and missionary outreach.” May I add, a constant recourse to the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who crushed the head of the serpent, the woman upon whose head was a crown of twelve stars (Revelation, 12, 1-2). With Mary, the new Eve, we will always win our battle against the devil. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.