Wrestling With The Devil
Every spring it’s the same. I head to my berm or bushes and wrestle with those annoying vines that snuck back during the late summer. By fall they made headway while I was distracted raking leaves or preparing plants for the winter. Now those vines are coiled around their defenseless victims, and it’s my perennial job to root them out.
Armed with pruners, a spade, a rake and a lot of determination, I snip, dig and pull with all the muscle I can muster in an attempt to eradicate the enemy – all the while aware that my gardens will never be completely free of those pests. While I work, the devil pops to mind. Isn’t that exactly the way he operates, creeping into our subconscious when we are busy or distracted? Gradually, if we are not vigilant, he captures a bit more of our soul.
He is a sly one. Using the seven deadly sins — sloth, greed, wrath, lust, envy, gluttony, and pride — he convinces us to believe his truths. Some examples are “Everyone is doing it, so it must be right. I didn’t do anything wrong. Why should I work hard? No one else is putting in the effort.” Or the admen’s favorite, “Life will be better when I have a bigger car, fancier house, name brand clothes, or the newest electronic device.”
However, if we are honest with ourselves, none of those lies create more personal happiness or a better world. But our society often persuades us to spend much of our time, talent, and treasure on materialistic or selfish pursuits instead of striving for spiritual growth.
The devil is alive and active in our world. It only takes a few minutes of viewing to discover the immoral or intolerant values promoted by the media. Listen to many of the popular talk shows. It appears that much of our society has come to accept the immorality and intolerance presented as an inalienable right of free speech. Are we, in turn, speaking out against such anti-Christian values, turning programs off, telling our children that what they see and hear is unacceptable? Or do we throw our hands up in complacency and keep quiet?
When I taught junior high religion, I asked them, “What does the devil look like? Is he black with horns and a red suit and pitchfork?” Surprised by the questions, they shook their heads to let me know they were smarter than that. After some discussion, we agreed that the devil is a master of deception. He weasels his way into our lives through all types of media with subliminal and not so subtle messages that directly contradict the teachings of Christ. I cautioned them that if they aren’t aware of how the devil works and the strategies he uses, they will not be able to defend themselves; and neither will we.
I once saw a poster on a Newman Center wall that read, “The truth can set you free, but it will cause you pain first.” Our human nature readily allows us to identify the faults of others while overlooking our own. The devil banks on that. He leads us down the slippery slope one falsehood at a time.
James 4:7 offers the solution. “So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he shall flee you.” How can we do that? Daily prayer is our first defense. According to St. Louis de Montfort, the Mass and the rosary are the two most powerful prayers. He said, “The devils have an overwhelming fear of the rosary [which] puts them to flight and makes all hell tremble. “
Our Church also offers us the graces of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. The Eucharist and Reconciliation are continual sources of God’s grace for all of us, which assist in the struggle to stay true to our Christian beliefs. Lately, I have thought what a better world it would be if all Christians spent as much time in prayer and church as we do pursuing our leisure and work. I imagine the devil wouldn’t stand a chance!