Recently I heard a talk from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen about the devil, and all the ways he hurts and deceives us. We can get so caught up in life and the distractions around us, that the presence of the devil begins to fall behind shadows.
Archbishop Sheen begins his talk by first explaining how the devil tries to convince us that he does not exist:
“Very few people believe in the devil these days, which suits the devil very well. He is always helping to circulate the news of his own death. The essence of God is existence, and He defines Himself as: 'I am Who am.' The essence of the devil is the lie, and he defines himself as: 'I am who am not.' Satan has very little trouble with those who do not believe in him; they are already on his side.”
He will first try to convince us that he does not exist. He first whispers in the ears of modern thinkers: "The spiritual cannot possibly exist! Never mind some evil being who is plotting your destruction. Think logically, believe what you see alone and all shall be well." He convinces them that the only beliefs they should have are in things visible, and to eliminate the spiritual. This may be fine for a time to the modern mind, but the human soul cannot live off of material things forever. The reason for this is because the soul and mind are not material and need more sustenance than what the material world offers. Once these people realize there is more to live than materialism, the devil will return and whisper, "Well if I do exist, I'm not that bad at all! If there is a guy with horns and a pitch fork tail, it's a pretty funny concept that should not be taken seriously."
Fulton Sheen goes on to give three characteristics of the demonic, to help us understand what to look for: "Our Blessed Lord one time went into the land of the Gerasens… and He found in this land a young man possessed of the devil. (Luke 8: 26-40). The Gospel mentions three characteristics of this young man. First, he was nude. Secondly, he was violent and aggressive. They could not even keep him in chains. And thirdly, his mind was split, schizophrenic. Our Lord said to him, 'What is your name?' He said, ‘My name is Legion.’” Archbishop Sheen explained that impurity, violence, and a destruction of inner peace are all characteristics of the devil.
We can see all of these traits in our modern world today. Firstly, we have impurity all around us these days – whether it be in advertisements, in the way people dress, in popular music, etc. Then, there is the trait of violence, which can also be found all around us, especially in entertainment for the young. Finally, we have the absence of peace. Without peace, we cannot function. It helps keeps us motivated and focused, it keeps our eyes raised to Heaven. If the devil can take away our peace, fill our minds with violent and upsetting thoughts, as well as corrupt our flesh with sins of lust, it will be easier to drag us down to hell.
These things may appeal to our fallen human nature at the beginning, but our soul in grace turns away from the things of the devil. Pray always for the grace of modesty, humility, and peace of soul. The devil may have the power to tempt us, but he will never have enough power to drag us to hell without our consent. A soul goes to hell, always because a decision has been made, not because they were tricked or broke innocently under pressure. God allows temptation from the devil mainly to strengthen and test our souls. After all, if we were never put to the test and have opportunities to prove our love for God, the love we have for Him would grow dull and weak. We must choose to use temptations for His greater glory and the salvation of our souls.
If we begin fighting against the devil and become aware of his temptations, he will try especially at this time to prove he’s a nice guy. ‘It’s in your nature, you know you want to commit this sin,’ he whispers to us, reminding us of the sins we struggle with the most. He pretends that he’s your friend, that he wants you to obtain all that you desire on this earth.
If we do happen to commit a certain sin, he immediately turns on us and tries to convince us there is no hope. “How could you sin again, after God has forgiven you so many times? Surely there is no way He can forgive you again.” The devil may seem to be your friend while he tempts you, but will show his true colors – of his wish for you to burn in hell – after you’ve fallen from the state of grace. Our Lord, on the other hand, has the opposite approach. When we are being tempted, He encourages us with His grace, to stay faithful in order to gain strength and prove our love and fidelity to Him. After we fall, He calls us back to His side, opening His arms in mercy to us. If we have true contrition, He assures us that His mercy can cure all injury and weakness.
Therefore, we must be very aware of the reality in which we live. We do not just live in a material world, but rather live on a spiritual battlefield, fighting for eternal life. This may be easy to forget at times, especially when we are young, but if we are confident in God and His Providence, He will protect us even when we forget. Follow the Commandments, receive the Sacraments, fulfill your daily duty, and all shall be well. Winning this spiritual battle does not necessarily mean we have to be praying at all times, or being constantly aware of the devil’s presence, but simply following our beloved Shepherd on the narrow path.
Let us then pray for the grace to be aware of the spiritual, and have that balance between worldly duties in this world, and spiritual duties. The devil may be smarter than us, and hate us to our very core, but we have God, Our Lady, and all the Angels and Saints on our side to defend us. What is satan, compared to the infinite power and goodness of God? The devil’s power is but a drop of water compared to the oceans of God’s love. We need not fear, or watch in anxiety, but fight bravely with the sword of St. Michael, all throughout our lives in order to defeat the enemy. We were put on this earth to fight for Christ in peace and joy, because it is fighting and proving our love for the Heavenly Father that will make us truly happy.