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home : opinion : word of faith

6/22/2017 9:00:00 AM
Satan is very real

'If the many died through one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many...' -- Rom 5:15

We have finally returned to the season of Ordinary Time for a Sunday liturgy, after the seasons of Lent and Easter. We have returned to green adorning our churches.

The Lord's words Sunday from Matthew's Gospel (Mt 10:26-33) are designed to give us hope and peace. "Fear no one," we are told by the Master. "So, do not be afraid," He emphatically states again.

But, in the midst of it, the Lord drops a warning: "Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna."

About whom is the Jesus speaking? The evil one, Satan, the devil, the father of lies.

It is said that the greatest lie of Satan is convincing the world that he doesn't exist. He does. Scripture attests to this fact. The tradition of our Church attests to this fact. The Catechism states: "Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church's tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called 'Satan' or the 'devil.' 

"The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: 'The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.'"

Recall the reality of original sin, coming from Adam and Eve. St. Paul tells us (Rom 5:12-15): "Through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men."

Satan is called by Jesus, in both Matthew's Gospel (Mt 4:1-11) and in John's Gospel (John 8:44), a "murderer from the beginning." In his jealousy of humankind, Satan is out to distort the reality of the Lord's creation. He is out to turn things upside down: telling us we are in charge, not God; urging us to put ourselves first, not God, not others and their good.

Satan, in the Gospels, even tries to pervert the Lord's mission in the temptation in the desert. It is this liar that causes division, such as we read in Sunday's first reading (Jer 20:10-13): "Denounce! Let us denounce him!"

It may seem odd to speak about the devil. Isn't Satan merely a metaphorical figure, a personification of evil, dreamed up because we don't want to face the evil and harm we do in the world?

No. Satan is very real. Pope Francis, since the start of his pontificate, has mentioned Satan. This may be due to his Jesuit training in the Spiritual Exercises, but perhaps it's his prayerful realization that the prince of lies is active in the world.

The Holy Father stated in 2014: "The prince of this world, Satan, doesn't want our holiness; he doesn't want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: 'But, Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!' But look out, because the devil is present!...We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan." The pope said in 2013: "The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil."

Satan is real and we should avoid his snares - but take heart in the words of the Lord Jesus in this week's Gospel. Jesus has conquered Satan. The devil lost. He is not the victor; Christ is.

Pope Francis said in 2013: "Around us there is the presence of evil; the devil is at work. But I would like to say in a loud voice, 'God is stronger.' Do you believe this, that God is stronger?"

God has won. We should do what Jesus tells us: acknowledge Him before others. Yes, we should fear Satan, recognizing his seductive power - but also recall that he only has as much power over us as we are willing to give him.

We might say this prayer from Pope Leo XIII in 1884 privately at the end of every Mass: "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, o prince of the heavenly host, by the divine power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls."

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