The Devil wants you and me to become discouraged and sad, and to hide behind lies. But God wants us to be happy and joyful, and to live in the truth.

God loves us! So, of course God wants each and every one of us to be happy. This message never changes, and all of us who have been reeling from the painful effects of so many sins — our sins and those of others — must always remember this central message of our faith (Jn 3:16)!

How can any Catholic be happy, however, after hearing about such vile and disgusting behaviors from men we look up to for their virtue and holiness? Like Rachel, the Church weeps for her children.

One thing is clear: The sins of fathers who abuse their families mock the love and holiness to which Christian faith calls us. Such lying lives give testimony not to the honor of God — and the person God loves — but to the idolatry of the sinful self and its own pursuits and pastimes.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report graphically documents “historical” abuses, spanning some 70 years. Little consolation to those whose abusers are mostly dead, even if the situation is arguably different today. Yet, studies show that the sexual abuse of children is no more prevalent among priests than among the general male population, so, sooner or later, survivors will teach us how pervasive in our society this really is.

Charol Shakeshaft, who had authored a study on educator sexual misconduct for the U.S. Department of Education, said in a 2004 interview with Education Week that the number of students sexually abused in schools is more than 100 times the number of children sexually abused by priests. Though we must demand the strictest scrutiny of clergy, whom we rightfully hold to the highest standards, any fair and sound system of justice should protect all children and vulnerable persons, regardless of where or to whom they might have fallen (or are in peril of falling) to the designs of sexual predators.

Whatever remains to be discovered or disclosed as we learn more of the terrible reality of sexual abuse in our society, Christians should have nothing to fear from the truth. The truth casts light in the darkness and exposes the lies that try to obscure it.

This is a graced time for each of us whose faith may now be challenged to make a personal decision to reaffirm what our faith calls us to: personal holiness, living in truth.

To live in the truth is to enter into the real presence of God — or, rather, to be embraced and absorbed into the goodness, love and holiness of God, in whom alone we find our true self, the person made in the image and likeness of God.

That is what the sacramental life of the Church is for. In the holy Eucharist, we consume the real presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are transformed by it — if we believe in him who gives us himself and in his power to transform us.

That’s the key: Unless we believe in the power of God’s presence in us to transform us from within — that is, to become like God in goodness, love and holiness — then just going through some “Catholic” motions will do us no more good than food to the unfortunate person suffering from a dreadful psychogenic condition like anorexia or bulimia.

Let me ask you the question: Do you believe holiness is possible for you?

Acclaimed spiritual author Matthew Kelly maintains that the great majority of Christians today don’t actually believe holiness is possible. If this is so, then some evil genius has effectively convinced us that Jesus is not real for us, and that his coming served us no purpose.

This, of course, is a lie, but now we have one more excuse for not believing: men of the cloth who themselves do not live in the truth the Church professes. If they don’t, how can I?

But the question is posed to each of us: “Who do you say that I am?” Are we going to allow Satan to neutralize another generation of Christians, to sabotage Christian spirituality by falling for the lie, telling ourselves and each other that holiness is not possible because some false prophets, some unfaithful fathers have failed to live in the truth?

The attack by the evil one that we are currently experiencing is psychological and spiritual. The ploy is to convince us — especially those who are not sure or who do not believe that holiness is possible for everyone — that, if some members of the clergy have gravely sinned, holiness is possible for none of us.

This lie is cynical, mendacious and belittling — but all too pervasive in the world today.

You think I am exaggerating? When was the last time you heard someone speak about holiness? When speaking of holiness, I do not mean being perfect. “Living in the truth we believe” means that we trust God to be God, for Jesus to be able to do with us what he says he will — if we trust in him.

The path to heaven is the path to holiness, but it leads through this earth, with all its trials and tribulations. It does not happen overnight or without effort, but it is possible for all of us — and it is worth it, if we want to be at peace.

“Peace is always in God, because God is peace!” said St. Niklaus von Flue.

Every time we approach the altar to receive the body and blood of Christ, we should pause to reflect on our unworthiness to be filled with the holiness of God. In a sense, all of us “un-” (if not “ex-”) communicate ourselves when we stray from the call to holiness.

Tragically, as they themselves abandon their call to holiness, wayward clergy have greased the skids for the fall of many others who will leave the Church in disgust. What an irony! This gives the devil exactly what he wants!

We must bring criminals to justice, justice to victims, and correct patterns of neglect and deception that have led to systemic abuse. Prayer and penance will surely strengthen our resolve and compassion.

We will soon become overwhelmed and despondent, however, unless we are ready to accept from God the change he wants for us: that we be holy and, therefore, happy.

This is, at its core, a broadside attack on the Mass. Satan has taken possession of the souls of some of those ordained to gather us at the Lord’s supper.

The devil has served up a scandal to entertain himself and to take our joy away. Let’s ruin his dinner and turn the tables on him, flocking en masse to the Lord’s real presence: the holy Eucharist. To know the happiness and joy God wants for us, we must turn our lives completely over to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our only hope.

Jesus gives us himself as our food and sustenance, as we have been hearing these past Sundays in the Gospel. He is our life, which is another way of saying that God’s holiness is meant to be ours, as well. As St. Augustine puts it, we are to become like the one we receive.

The first step, however, is to believe that this holiness is possible for you and me. So far, Satan has been doing quite a job in convincing us it is not. Isn’t it time we affirmed our baptismal faith and took a decisive step forward in our life?

The choice is yours and mine, whether to believe the “father of lies” or the Lord of truth and life. Until we choose God, we stand with Adam and Eve, smitten by a certain cunning serpent whose apples harbor a venomous bite, showing little progress since Eden, and with no bragging rights against our fathers who have fallen for the lie.

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)