March 30, 2009
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
By the time this newspaper gets into your hands, we likely will have experienced some sort (or sorts) of aggravation at the WCR. Computer breakdowns are likely.
This does not happen every week, only occasionally. But problems arise almost like clockwork when we publish an article that mentions the devil.
When I came to work at the WCR nearly 20 years ago, every week we had to print our entire mailing list and ship it to the company that mailed the newspaper. Occasionally, the printer would break down and cause us untold grief in getting it fixed.
At first, I thought it was only a coincidence that this only happened during weeks when we had an article about the devil in the WCR. Eventually, I realized that it was more than a coincidence.
SATAN LIKES CONFUSION
We long ago stopped printing mailing labels. But when we run an article about the devil, other things happen – usually mechanical breakdowns. Satan, I have come to realize, likes confusion.
Some people reading this will think I am crazy for thinking, let alone saying, such a thing. The whole idea of the devil interfering with the operation of a newspaper is medieval superstition. If the devil exists – and probably he doesn't – he couldn't be bothered with such trivial parts of life such as printers and computers.
Sorry! He does exist and he is far more active than we are inclined to think.
The reason Satan messes around with our newspaper is that he does not like publicity. His job of undermining the proclamation of the Gospel is a lot more effective if no one is aware of what he is doing.
Jesus, for his part, told the apostles to spread the Gospel to "all nations." Satan would rather that people not believe he exists.
St. Paul has no hesitation in talking about the works of the devil. He was certainly not bothered by any doubts as to whether Satan exists. At several points in his letters, he used phrases like "the god of this world," "the wiles of the devil" and "powers and principalities."
Paul knows that Satan is a great deceiver and that he represents a serious threat to the faith.
THE LAWLESS ONE
In his second letter to the Thessalonians (2.3-11), he warns the Christian community about "the lawless one" who is revealed in Satan's work through "all power, signs, lying wonders and every kind of wicked deception" in the lives of non-believers.
The error of the non-believers? "They refused to love the truth and so be saved."
Indeed, Satan's major work is deception and error. The main defence against him is not incantations or exorcisms, but truth.
Paul says that Satan sometimes disguises himself as "an angel of light" and that his followers can sometimes be found within the Church itself disguising themselves as "false apostles, deceitful workers" (2 Corinthians 11.13-15).
Earlier in the same letter, Paul contends that if the light of the Gospel sometimes seems to be "veiled," it is only so for those who are perishing. Their minds have been blinded by "the god of this world" (4.4).
He tells the Ephesians, "Do not make room for the devil" (4.26). Allowing your anger to linger past sundown gives room for resentment to gain a foothold.
As well, the Church needs to be aware that "the tempter" can use persecutions to spur despair in the people and cause them to lose faith (1 Thessalonians 3.2-5).
The devil even uses people's good intentions for his evil purposes. Some married couples were abstaining from sexual relations, but Paul says they should set a limit to their abstinence so that Satan does not use prolonged abstinence as an opportunity for temptation (1 Corinthians 7.5).
The only method for defeating Satan is to live in accord with the Gospel. The defence against Satan is to put on "the armour of God" (Ephesians 6.10-17). The first step in assuming that armour is to put "the belt of truth" around your waist. After that comes the weapons of righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the word of God.
Perhaps it is easy to become paranoid about the devil. But he is more of a danger to us when we are unaware of his activity. At the WCR, the devil may have caused a lot of grief. But the paper never missed a deadline and it always got distributed on time.
POWER OF THE CROSS
Paul, too, faced stiff opposition – imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, myriad dangers and a thorn in the flesh "from a messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians 12.7). That he survived and the Gospel flourished was to him just more evidence of the power of the cross.
The devil may be craftier than mere mortals, but he is no match for the power of God. God raised Jesus "above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named" (Ephesians 1.21). With Paul, take the devil seriously; take Jesus even more seriously.