Listening to God versus Dialoguing with the Devil, The Anchor, March 14, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Putting into the Deep
The Anchor
March 14, 2014

Exactly a year ago today, Pope Francis gave his first papal homily in the Sistine Chapel to the Cardinals who had elected him. In words that caught me totally by surprise as I was translating them live for an EWTN audience, the Pope, quoting Leon Bloy, said, “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil,” and then added, “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.”

That was the first of 22 times he has focused on the devil in his homilies in the last year.

It’s a theme to which he returned yet again on Sunday when in his Angelus meditation he reflected on how the devil got Adam and Eve to succumb to his temptations in the garden and how Jesus was able to withstand him in the desert.

“Note well how Jesus replies,” he said. “He does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the earthly paradise. … Instead of dialoguing with Satan like Eve did, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and answers with the force of this Word. …In our temptations, we should not argue with Satan, but always defend ourselves with the Word of God! And this will save us.”

Pope Francis knows the devil is real and is constantly scheming to get us into a “dialogue” as we saw with Eve, so that he can manipulate our lack of precise knowledge of God’s word, get us to distrust God and his promises, disbelieve sin will kill us, choose to act in opposition to him, and entice others to follow us down the same deadly path. As a good shepherd, Pope Francis wants to protect us from this worst wolf of all.

But many times we’re totally unaware. The future Pope said in a 2010 interview that the devil’s “greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe that he doesn’t exist,” and that means that often we’re oblivious to the devil’s mendacious machinations as he seeks to lure us into professing “a demonic worldliness” rather than faith in Jesus Christ and all he’s revealed.

It’s worthwhile for us, therefore, to ponder some of the father of lies’ most common contemporary seductions, the poisonous fruit into which he gets so many Catholics and others today to sink their teeth:

“God doesn’t want you to be a ‘fanatic’ about the faith. Sure, Jesus tells you that if you want to be his disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your cross every day and follow him, but he didn’t really mean for you to take that literally! Jesus wants you to be happy, not miserable — right? — and will the cross make you happy or miserable?”

“You’d be foolish to trust the Church. How many scandals will it take for you to realize that the Church isn’t holy? Don’t naively believe what you heard in the second grade, that it’s ‘guided by the Holy Spirit,’ or that some man dressed in white could possibly be infallible. The Church is undemocratic and hopelessly out of touch with real world and modern times. While one can believe in God, how can someone in 2014 believe in the farce of a holy, Catholic and apostolic Church?”

“’God is love,’ right? Then love! Don’t hold anything back! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t express your love any way you find appropriate — like the prudes who tell you that God restricts sex only to the marriage of a man and a woman. That just represses and stifles love! Why should you let the bigots tell you whom you can and cannot love? And if you end up getting married, know that once you lose that loving feeling it’s totally appropriate for you to go find that loving feeling with someone younger, sexier and more exciting. Remember life is about love and God would never suffocate love by the rules of medieval morality and Victorian manners.”

“You don’t really have to go to Mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation. That’s just a means for the Church to get two collections out of you! You can worship God better on your own than by wasting your free time on Sunday getting bored to death in Church. The fact that the Church teaches that voluntarily missing Mass is a mortal sin for which you could go to hell shows how absurd the Church is, doesn’t it? What type of God would ever do that, as if Mass were that important for human beings?”

“You don’t need to go to the Sacrament of Confession to be forgiven. What’s the point except to fill you with shame and embarrassment? If you’re sorry, just tell God you’re sorry. After all, aren’t many priests worse sinners than you?”

“You don’t really have to love your enemies or forgive seventy times seven times. Jesus would never command you to do something so naïve as to love and pardon even terrorists, serial killers, child molesters and those who have deeply hurt you. That’s like saying you’ve got to love and pardon evil! How could the good Lord ever demand that?”

“Don’t believe anyone who talks to you about Hell or tries to ‘scare’ you into worshipping God. Hell may exist, but it’s really just for those who are evil, like Judas Iscariot, Adolf Hitler, or Osama bin Laden. So as long as you’re not like them  — and you’ll never be like them! — you will coast to heaven.”

“It’s good that you want to convert and get your life back together. But remember: there’s always time! You’ll have plenty of future Lents. No need to do anything radical these 40 days.”

In each of these areas it’s important for us to ask: Are we listening to God or dialoguing with the devil?  And are we professing Jesus or a demonic worldliness?