But The Devil Makes Me Feel Good
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005
As I was looking over the Gospel (Mt 4:1-11) for the First Sunday of Lent this year, preparing my homily, I saw something I never noticed before: The Holy Spirit brought Jesus to the Devil.
Why would that be the case?
THE DEVIL SAYS "DIE"
The authors of the book An Exorcist Tells His Story (Ignatius Press; 1999) describes the Devil in terms of the Alien in Independence Day. After the U.S. president speaks to this alien, the monster's response is simple: "DIE!" That, says the authors, describes the devil well.
So, here we have the Spirit leading Jesus to the very creature who seeks his defeat and his total destruction. Why? Well, first you can see that the Devil in his attacks helps Jesus define his mission. That constant work to undermine his mission will indeed, as Jesus fights that battle, actually help him to define it. It is a principle that St. John of the Cross describes in another context in the Dark Night of the Soul. Those of us who have experienced this terrible Dark Night over the past several years have also seen our mission as people of faith further and more deeply defined. The more we choose for Christ, the more we become stronger in our witness for Christ, for we become wiser in the Lord.
THE DEVIL'S TOOLBOX
Here in the gospel reading we see that the Devil continues to tempt Jesus. Here we are given the tools to overcome his temptations as well.
Notice the formula. The Devil tries to make Jesus focus on himself. If you are the Son of God, then glorify yourself, he is essentially saying. That is the first and second temptation here. The third is worship me and I will glorify you. Again, building self focus. He is trying to build Jesus' ego. Yet, Jesus response is to take the temptation and focus not on himself, but on the Father through that last temptation. Finally, he casts the Devil away.
This demonstrates to us how to be people of faith. You and I cannot fight evil directly. We do not have that strength, so we do so by focusing on Jesus Christ. The devil tries to get us to focus on ourselves, so we fight back by turning to Christ. That is always the case.
SELF GLORIFICATION AND OUR WORLD
The Devil's formula is a quite successful formula for it is around us always. "Remember Be the first kid on your block to have . . .?" This is a temptation to self-glorification. We see it in video games, (I just defeated the evil lord gleek), We see it in life, (Keep your mouth shut and you will be department head someday.) We see it in many ways.
The first reading also demonstrates it, the Devil gets Eve to focus on herself and away from God. Again it is his powerful tool. Notice how often you see in our society people promoting, supporting and glorifying philosophies of the self.
I have to do what is best for me. Listen to the "I" phrases. I must be happy, I must think about me first. I must change my life if it does not satisfy me. Notice further that our culture is based on self-fulfillment. There is little talk about self-sacrifice outside of Major League Baseball.
SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY FOR FIGHTING THE DEVIL
So if we are going to fight temptation, the first thing to do is to focus away from the self and onto God. We focus on doing God's will. We focus on pleasing Christ. We focus on meeting and knowing Christ. If you are in the midst of temptation pray not that the temptation will be taken away, but pray for someone else's holiness. Now your focus is in charity towards the Father through Jesus Christ in a way that benefits another. That is a strong tool against temptation. If you pray that the temptation be taken away, you are still focused on you and the temptation.
If the Devil can get us focused on ourselves, he can lead us down to the bowels of Hell. If we really give into him, he can have us driving the bus to take others with us. We resist him by ignoring him.
STRATEGY FOR FIGHTING THE DEVIL
Now we need some form of self-focus otherwise we will die from lack of self-care. I am talking intense self focus.
This is one of the reasons why I dismiss opinion polls of the Hollywood Celebrities. Some are great people, yet, remember, this industry is extremely narcissistic. Many have an intense self-focus. So when you hear of what their opinion may be, do not give it any greater weight than any others.
Indeed, I was walking down the street several years ago near Northeastern University when a local TV news camera crew approached me. I was not in my clerics so the reporter had no idea I was a priest. She asked my opinion of something of which I knew nothing. She could have asked me what I thought of the result of the election of Hhkihsish to be president of the planet Bleen and I would have known as much as I knew about the question she actually asked me. I said I could not give an opinion. She continued trying to prod an answer out of me. "Go on take a guess." I responded again that I knew absolutely nothing about her subject matter and I could not respond. Again she prodded. Eventually we parted ways.
That opinion survey is a narcissists' delight. How many others did she find who actually gave an opinion, and like me, did not have a clue about the subject matter. Remember she literally asked me to just say something of which I knew nothing. Yet, giving an opinion is a process on these shows for self-glorification. "Hey, everybody, look at me I am on television." Do I need to mention a certain violent talk show that airs daily across the country?
DEVIL'S GREATEST TOOL, CATHOLIC GUILT
A self-focused person does great damage to our world and our church. That is why the Devil is always trying to get you to be self focused. His greatest tool however is something that people call Catholic guilt. There is no such thing. But look at how guilt makes you self focused. If you have done something wrong. Repent of it and get it behind you. If you get consumed by guilt that is not of God. That is virtually demonic. In each case, do what Jesus does, focus on God rest in his mercy and know that Jesus died on the cross just so that you would be saved. So focus on Christ's mercy and rest in it. Do not be caught up in any form of guilt.
THE DEVIL'S FAILURE: THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
As I said earlier, these past three years have been terribly painful for all of us. They have been our Dark Night, you who are here in front of me continue to persevere in the Dark Night. If you have not felt the fruits of your perseverance yet, do not worry you will. You are being formed to be more powerful followers of Christ. Now, open yourself to what is next. Humble yourselves before the mighty Lord and choose Christ everyday. Pray daily, pray the rosary daily and allow the transformation of your mind in Christ.
Our Dark Night continues, but Jesus showed us that when we are surrounded by darkness, that is when each and every choice for him helps us see the light and see what those in darkness cannot see. You have persevered and are being sculpted to do a task that only the strongest in Christ can do. We are now becoming powerful of God. Such is now your reality in Christ. Focus on Christ, pray that you do his will and live the Gospel as powerful as do all whom are touched by Christ.
http://www.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Priest, 617 542-5682
Satan, Temptation, Grace,
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