Thwarting the Devil

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Christ in Limbo | Fra Angelico

Tomorrow the Church celebrates the moment of the Incarnation, wrought in God’s infinite love from eternity and brought to time by the simple ‘yes’ of a young Hebrew girl. It was through this ‘yes’, that God brought the human race back to Himself. For good. We also find ourselves in the final days of Lent, wherein (hopefully) we have redoubled our efforts to imitate Mary’s perfect ‘yes’. But how often our self-absorption drowns out the voice of the Holy Spirit. And the devil plays on this self-absorption with great cleverness. If we are on to the devil’s tricks, however, we can pray to receive the strength to see through them, to lift our eyes to the face of God, and say ‘yes’, thus thwarting the devil’s plan for us, as Mary frustrated his plan the for whole human race. And so, without further ado, here are three of the devil’s favorite lies:

  • Self-loathing: We have all heard the adage “love the sinner, hate the sin.” And normally we think of the sinner as “someone else”. Yet we will never be able to love the sinner that we see in the world, until we first learn to love the sinner that we see in the mirror. “Wait,” you are thinking, “I thought you said that the whole problem is self-absorption.” Yes, but self-absorption is not true love of self, because the latter involves seeing oneself as one really is and leads one to love of God, while with self-absorption we fail to love ourselves, the sinner, because we aren’t looking at the sinner, we’re looking only at a blown-up image of ourselves and conflating it with our sins. We need to hate the sin and not the sinner, even when the sinner happens to be ourselves.
  • Perfect Intentions: This one is simple, and one especially prevalent in our time: the devil gets us to not do something good out of a fear of doing it out of self-love. He paralyzes us and renders us deaf to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Here we just need to get over ourselves. Of course there are imperfections in our motives: we are imperfect people. But imperfect does not mean totally evil. And God is so powerful that he can work with and even perfect us through good works that we perform imperfectly. We must never let our fear of loving God imperfectly stop us from loving Him at all. We must be bold. And trust.
  • False Humility: “I’m not holy enough to be a saint, I’m definitely going to have to go to purgatory, I’m powerless without God’s help, so I’m just going to sit still here and play dead ‘til God throws the lifeline.” No, no, and no! These types of thoughts are poison in the spiritual life: we have been redeemed by the Blood of Christ, have been baptized in His Spirit, and so are adopted sons and daughters, fellow heirs of the Kingdom. St. Therese of Lisieux said that nothing causes more pain to Jesus than the thought that one is ‘definitely going to purgatory’: this is not humility, this is a lack of trust. True humility sees that without God, one is nothing, but with Him one is everything; true humility runs to God without holding anything back.

The defense against of all these tricks is true self-knowledge. And that is a gift. So we must pursue it and pray to Mary, our Mother, that she might intercede on our behalf. Mary, help of the self-absorbed, pray for us!

Br. Michael Thomas Cain, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE