THE DEVIL (stuff you need to know!!)
‘You are the devil in disguise, oh yes you are, the devil in disguise!’
A harmless, popular song by Elvis, lamenting being wronged in love, but is there a devil, and even more importantly does he come in disguise.? In one sense he is often talked about, and yet he is the topic so many want to avoid. Perhaps more than any other issue, there is cliché after cliche about him. The horned, pointy- tailed, club-footed, fork wielding one whose number is six hundred and sixty six, and whose smell is brimstone. I am of course speaking about the devil, sometimes referred to as Beelzebul or Lucifer. Indeed in popular parlance he can be mentioned as ‘Oul Nick’. As we get closer to Lent and our annual Novena of Grace, it might be timely to ask the question is there really such a thing as the devil? I mean surely this is old hat! Surely in this day and age we do not still preach the existence of the devil?
In this edition of ‘rumblings from the Bunker’, I am going to argue that not only is there such a thing as the devil, but that he is active and business is brisk. This is not to frighten people, in fact it’s the opposite. The truth is we are better knowing about him and how he works. This way there is less chance we shall be tricked or deceived by him. In this sense knowledge is power. Indeed as well as knowing that he exists and that he is active we can also learn how we can be ahead of him and not to be afraid of any encounter with him. It might be as well to point out that whilst I have been referring to the devil as ‘him’, it is more correct to refer to the devil, or the evil one, as it. Neither male or female, but rather spirit or force of, and for, evil.
I would like to be as practical as possible in the treatment of this topic. Where do we find the Evil Spirit, how does it work? How can we be sure to win in any possible combat? I want to be clear from the outset that I am not talking here about a cartoon or caricature. Nor am I dealing with old wives tales, or superstition. I am speaking of the Evil Spirit, sometimes known as the devil. I believe the Evil Spirit is active in the world, in our country, and in our church. We should take the work of the Evil Spirit seriously. Let me name this more accurately.
One of the greatest tools of the devil is fear. Fear in its broadest sense and all its key ingredients. Fear often thrives in lies or deceit. A really powerful enemy of fear is truth. If you find yourself very frightened, the chances are you are not in possession of the whole truth. The more frightened people are, the less free they are. When any one of us is frightened we are inclined to tighten up, to clench, to brace ourselves. It is in this scenario we are more inclined to lash out. When fear gets a really good foothold in our lives or our communities then suspicion and distrust begin to spread.
We live in strange times. We live in the age of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’. Actually I believe we live in a world where there is more fear than ever. Without wishing to become overly political I believe that recent developments in the United Kingdom and the United States were propelled to a large degree by fear. The same may well happen in France. When we become frightened we baton down the hatches….or build a wall. The stranger becomes less a source of beauty and mystery and more about threat. We become suspicious rather than curious. Richness in diversity gives way to the unknown or unfamiliar being seen as hostile and to be resisted. It is in the thick darkness of fear that the Evil Spirit hides, plots and manipulates. Another place we will readily encounter the Prince of Darkness is wherever the sacred is disrespected.
It would appear that there is a battle going on at the moment. It is a battle for the soul of Ireland. An example of what I mean by sacred would be the gift of life. The truth is that the gift of life from womb to tomb is not respected in our country. The principle that all life is sacred is constantly under threat. This is obvious in the ongoing debate between pro-choice and pro-life. There are alarm bells ringing around the modus operandi of the Citizen’s Assembly. However it is not just about life in the womb but includes end of life issues, and in fact has something to say about the health of the nation, both mental and physical. Fear and the Trampling of the Sacred are just two examples of the work of the Evil Spirit. We could easily add injustice, abuse, careerism, corruption and a whole host of others to the arsenal that it employs to undermine the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven.
What chance have we in the face of all this? In fact we have every chance. Let’s use all the helps that are at our disposal. Angels, prayers, holy water, medals, novenas of course, but above all attendance at Mass, the praying of Scripture and never forget the power of the Name of Jesus in the face of evil. The victory belongs to Jesus, and those that belong to him.