The Standard of Christ vs. the Standard of Satan

12-12-2021Weekly Reflection

After the devil had seduced Adam and Eve, God cursed the evil spirit and prophesied, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.” The woman is Mary. Her seed is Christ. Ever since Eden there has been a deadly conflict between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan. Not to know this is not to understand the most fundamental warfare that’s been going on since the dawn of human history.

…Christ our Lord began His public ministry by first fasting for forty days in the desert and then allowing Himself to be tempted by the evil spirit. Part of the imitation of Christ is to expect to be tempted by the devil. Indeed the greater and firmer our desire for holiness, the stronger will be the efforts of the fallen angels to make us follow their example of refusing to serve God. The key of course, is to recognize the demons’ strategy, and courageously act against what they are urging us to do. We may take it for granted that we are being urged to self-indulgence, the key to Lucifer and the key to the demons’ temptations. The key is self: self-indulgence, self-assertion, and self-will. The impulse leading to this self-will is from the minions of Lucifer, who became the devil precisely because he used his will against God.

As the Church solemnly defined it at the Council of Trent, the devil became the devil because of his free will. Once the free will turns against God it becomes demon-like. Basic to a correct understanding of the spiritual life, in every state of life, is the fact that the following of Christ is a social venture. We must go beyond the desire for our own sanctification to cooperate with Christ in propagating His doctrine throughout the world. Togetherness is of the essence of our faith. Equally basic is the corresponding fact that the evil spirit is active in his propagation of his doctrine and he spreads a doctrine throughout the world. Remember the parable of the sower, who sowed good seed during the day, and then sometime later weeds began to grow, sown in the same field by an enemy. There are two sowers sowing their seed in the hearts and minds of men, one sower is Jesus Christ, the other is Lucifer. The focus of our concentration here is to compare the method used by Christ in organizing His followers with a corresponding and competitive method of Satan in mobilizing his agents.

First then, the standard of Satan: St. Ignatius Loyola says that the Chief Enemy of all summons innumerable demons and scatters them. Some to one city and some to another throughout the whole world, so that no province, no place, no state of life, no individual is overlooked. He goes around to lay traps for people to seek to chain them. First the demons are to tempt them to covet riches that they more easily obtain the empty honors of this world and then come to overweening pride. The first step will be riches, the second glory, the third pride. These three steps lead to all other vices. But whatever the possession, whether as cheap a thing as money, or special things like secular knowledge or even spiritual wisdom, the first step is to become wealthy and thus to attain recognition, praise, honor. Attachment to the things of this world gradually makes a person, not only dissatisfied with what he or she possesses, but hungry for acceptance, recognition, praise, and honor. Once proud this leads to all kinds of evils. Pride is the sin we most share with Satan and the fallen angels. Satan refused to serve God or to submit to His plan; these are strong tendencies in every human person as well.

Now the Standard of Christ: In the words of St. Ignatius, I quote, “Christ our Lord, the Lord of all the world, chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples and sends them throughout the whole world to spread His Sacred doctrine among all men. No matter what their state or condition may be,the address which Christ our Lord makes to His servants, whom He sends on this enterprise, is to urge them to seek to help everyone. First, by attracting them to the highest spiritual poverty, (Blessed are the poor in spirit says the Beatitude.) and, should it please the Divine Majesty, and should He deign to choose them, even to actual poverty. Secondly, by encouraging them to desire insults and contempt, for from these two things comes humility. So then, there are three steps. The first poverty, opposed to riches, the second scorn or contempt, opposed to worldly honor, the third humility, opposed to pride. From these three steps Christ leads them to all virtues. We now have the contrast and what a contrast this is. Christ’s strategy is the direct opposite of Satan’s.

It begins by inspiring His followers and future apostles in every age, in every state of life to practice the first beatitude, ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’, detachment of heart from earthly possessions and, if it is God’s will, embracing actual poverty. The first condition for a person, who wants to serve Christ in winning souls for His Divine Majesty, is at least interiorly, to be detached from everything in this world. The only persons that Jesus Christ uses to spread His gospel are the people detached from the things of this world. Christ inspires His followers to actually desire, of course, under the influence of grace, to be scorned or held in contempt. You must want, to be scorned, despised, ignored, rejected, as Jesus was. That doesn’t mean you go around behaving as somebody who is out of his mind.

But, for the world, anyone who follows Christ faithfully, is considered out of his mind and in the world’s estimate, we are only as out of our mind as we are faithful in the following of Christ. The basic requirement, without which we are helpless in the face of the devil, is humility. Proud people are no match for Lucifer. This means being humble in our dealing with other people. And remember our dealing with other people begins inside of our own minds without a second thought. We are tempted to spontaneously think of others as somehow, at least somehow, inferior to us, so any thoughts of superiority on our part or inferiority on their part should be resisted.

First then, what we call social humility and internal social humility. Again, it means humble resignation to God’s will no matter how demanding this divine will can be, and the divine will can be very demanding. And always, always we should keep in mind, except for God, I wouldn’t even be the air that I breathe, I just wouldn’t be. Except for God, I wouldn’t have a will. God gave me the mysterious but awesome power of choosing to do His will. All that I’m doing, therefore, when I accept God’s will, and it has to be demanding otherwise there’s no price. It is the most rational thing in the world to submit to the will of God. It further means, the habit of humble prayer, by surrendering our wills in patience. Following St. Peter, we are to maintain ourselves in calmness of spirit. Why? Because my faith tells me that I have God’s grace on my side, alone I’m helpless, but with the grace of God, I can resist all the demons of hell.

If we’re going to cope with the evil spirit in our lives, we must be vigilant. The devil is deceptive. He adjusts himself to pious people with piety, to intelligent people with intelligence, to artistic people with art, and so on. Be watchful. Then following St. Peter, never be afraid of the devil. Resist, stand up to him, do not weaken. St Peter reminds us “our strength comes from the fact that we have the Faith.” We’re in the presence of God, we trust in God’s grace, we trust in the power of prayer and we know that God want souls to be saved through others. And He wants us to be channels of His grace to other people, just to underline the necessity of prayer. Anyone who thinks that the injunction to pray always is a pious hyperbole is wrong. Remember we’ve said this before, the only grace you’re absolutely sure of having whenever being tempted, by the evil spirit, is the grace to pray. To be assured of the grace that I need to cope with the devil, I must pray.