Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pope Francis and the Devil (Again)

In his homily of October 30, once again Pope Francis returned to a favorite theme, saying that the devil is more than an idea, and in order to fight him, Christians must follow St. Paul’s instructions and “put on the armor of God” which protects us: “In this generation, like so many others, people have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists and we must fight against him,” said the Pope.

The day’s first reading was from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, in which the apostle warns against the temptations of the devil, telling Christians to clothe themselves with the armor of God so they can resist. The Holy Father said that a Christian life requires both strength and courage, and needs to be defended because it is a constant battle with the devil, who tempts with worldly attractions, the passions and our flesh.

“From whom do I have to defend myself? What must I do?” he asked, saying that St. Paul tells us to “put on God’s full armor, meaning that God acts as a defense, helping us to resist Satan’s temptations. Is this clear?”

Would that many who style themselves faithful Catholics understood what Francis does, that no spiritual or Christian life is possible without the need to resist temptation. Our battle is with the principalities and ruling forces of this world, which are rooted in the devil and his followers.

The Pope also pointed out that many Christians no longer believe in the devil, but rather think of him as “a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil.” In this he echoes the famous homily of Paul VI of November, 1972, in which because of this disbelief, the Church’s greatest enemy thus became the need to defend her from Satan. The devil does exist, and Francis rightly teaches that we must constantly be on guard. “Paul tells us this, it’s not me saying it! The Word of God is telling us this. But we’re not all convinced of this,” said His Holiness. Pope Francis then narrated St. Paul’s description of the armor of God, of which the apostle says there are different types.

Paul urges the Ephesians to stand firm with the truth as “a belt around your waist,” the Pope observed, saying that the devil is a liar, and that in order to defeat him we always fight with the truth and with faith in God. Like Saint Paul says, our faith in God is a shield to defend ourselves against Satan, who “doesn't throw flowers at us (but) burning arrows” intended to kill, the pontiff expounded. “Life is a military endeavor. Christian life is a battle, a beautiful battle, because when God emerges victorious in every step of our life, this gives us joy, a great happiness,” the Pope continued, saying that our joy lies in the fact that it is the Lord who is the victor within us, giving us the free gift of salvation.

Francis also cautioned that “we’re all a bit lazy, aren’t we, in this battle and we allow ourselves to get carried away by our passions, by various temptations.” Why? Because each one of us is a sinner, he said, telling those present to not be downcast, but rather to have courage and be empowered by the awareness that the Lord is with us!