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Chapter 31

“Resist the Devil”

 

Let the enemy rage at the gate,
let him knock, let him push,
let him cry, let him howl, let him do worse;
we know for certain that he cannot enter
save by the door of our consent.
—St. Francis de Sales

 

 

God allows the devil to tempt, distract, disturb or depress us for two reasons.  Either for our greater growth in virtue or as a punishment and penance for sin.  As St. Cyprian of Carthage once said, “God gives (allows) the Devil power against us in two ways—Either for punishment when we sin, or for glory when we are tested.”  In either case, we need to resist the devil in the way that St. James taught us, “‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore, submit yourselves to God, but resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 4:6-8, 9,10)

When God allows us to be tested, temptation is close at hand.  By saying “no” to the temptation and turning away to obey God’s will in our thoughts, words, deeds and desires, we grow in grace and virtue, especially the opposing virtue.  Furthermore, besides tempting us to sin, whether directly or through exterior things, the devil may also provide an excuse to sin or rationalization that can weaken and deceive us.  For example—“Everyone does it.”  “It’s just normal.”  “It’s no big deal.”  Now, it is true that some sins are more serious than others, but every sin separates us from God to some degree, if not entirely.  A serious sin can be compared to taking a gold menorah with all its white candles burning bright and throwing it down on the carpet.  Wax pieces (effects of sin) are scattered everywhere and will be very difficult to remove.  It may take the help of a professional to clean up.  The candles (virtues) are damaged and will need to be restored.  Their flame (charity) has gone out and will need to be relit.  The gold menorah (the soul) is cast down and will need to be lifted up.  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19)

When you are tempted to sin or “feel” the presence of the evil one, say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Begone Satan!”  Pray the “Hail Mary.”  Pray The Four Step Prayer.  Then, continue to pray in your own way as you do God’s will, your daily duties.  If you are at home, you can also bless yourself with Holy Water while making the “Sign of the Cross.”  Furthermore, you could look at a crucifix, if that helps you to pray and to resist temptation.

When it comes to punishment for sin, God allows the devil to afflict us as a penance and painful cross.  When the children of Israel fell into self-pity and anger and rebelled against God and Moses on their journey through the desert to the promised land, God allowed “seraph serpents” to bite them.  “With their patience worn out by the journey, they complained against God and Moses, ‘We are sick of this miserable food.’” (Numbers 21:4-5)  They were tired of the spiritual life with its manna from heaven, and they wanted to go back to the fleshpots of Egypt, their old worldly way of life.  “In punishment the Lord sent seraph serpents among the people, which bit the people so that many of them died.” (Numbers 21:6)  God allowed the serpents to afflict them so that they would repent of their sin and come back to Him, which they did. (Numbers 21:7)  The remedy for deadly sin, the serpent’s poison, is to look to Christ Crucified, symbolized by the bronze serpent mounted on a pole. (Numbers 21:8-9)  “By his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt. 4:1)  When you are tempted in the desert, in hard or dry times, in rough or tough times, to give up the Christian life altogether or to give in to sin, persevere in patience and wait for the Lord to free you and refresh you in His time and in His way.  “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)  Do the best you can, but in the end, only God can free and save us.  If you can, go to Confession, and do some spiritual reading.

 

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