Lest at this juncture we become anxious or discouraged this wisdom from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 395: “The power of satan is…not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature – to each man and to society, the action is permitted by Divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him.’”
Love, rather than the death-darkness of hatred, building the civilization of love, is the heart of the struggle.
As Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Elder Zosima teaches in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV: “….what is hell? I think it is the suffering of one who can no longer love….knowledge of active, living love….this is why that creature was given life on earth, and with it, time and space. And what happens? The privileged creature rejects that priceless gift, fails to appreciate it, does not even like it, sneers at it, and remains unmoved. When such a creature leaves the earth….when he is already in sight of heaven and allowed into the presence of the Lord, he is filled with suffering at the thought that he will appear before the Lord never having loved and will be brought into the presence of those who have loved him but whose love he has scorned…..”
That is the ultimate horror of satan and the damned.
Who among us would choose such darkness?
It is the absolute absence of Gospel love which facilitates all the factors that bring about the murderous action of aborting an unborn child, a tiny creature created by Love Himself to be beloved of Him, of us; it is the same absence which facilitates the contraceptive, pornographic, addicted, greedy, self-centered culture which denies the objective truth that every human being, from cradle to grave is, like myself, beloved in the image and likeness of God, a redeemed person, and as baptized persons living, breathing, acting temples of the Holy Spirit.
No wonder we Christians need to be soldiers of Christ, need the intervention of St. Michael, are warred against by satan. [Rev. 12]
Reflecting on the life of the patron of parish priests, St. John Vianney, and drawing on the wisdom of Pope Paul VI, Fr. George Rutler writes in his work THE CURE D’ARS TODAY: “The modern age, which has seen the power of evil so gigantically displayed, is also a time of disbelief in the existence of evil. In 1972 Pope Paul VI told nations reeling from hunger, violence, indolence, and nuclear threats that evil is not the absence of good: it is a ‘living, spiritual being’ who is perverted and perverts: ‘What are the greatest needs of the Church today? Do not let our answer surprise you as being over-simple or even superstitious and unreal: one of the greatest needs is defense from that evil which is called the devil.’ And he publicly lamented that the smoke of satan had even entered the Church. The warning redresses what had already become the quandary of Vianney’s progressivist culture. Father Ravignan said of the devils in the nineteenth century: ‘Their masterpiece, Sirs, has been to get themselves denied by the age.’”
Fr. Rutler also stresses, and this is vitally important for us to peacefully, with intimate confidence in Jesus never to forget: “The evil one terrorizes no one as much as he is terrified himself by Christ the Victor….”
Thus as we read in St. Mark and elsewhere in the Holy Gospel: “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” [cf. Mk. 1: 21-28]
By His grace we are challenged to embrace the stark reality spiritual warfare is the nitty-gritty daily, even nightly for many souls, life of the Church Herself and of all the baptized.
Both Revelations 12 and St. Paul speaking to the Ephesians, chapter 6, underscore this reality: “…draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded with truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel….” [V.10-19]
One of the challenges we face in spiritual warfare is, seeking always the grace of purity of heart, to express this with a pure mouth.
By this I mean not only avoiding swearing, blasphemy, telling off-coloured stories, and most critically never gossiping, but also never to speak ill of another, but always to speak with sincere charity.
Sometimes in the heat of the battle I have heard both clergy and laity speak ill of the ‘other side’.
In many Western countries a blatant example of unbridled and unholy converse can be found in the way, by their own words or advertisements, political candidates speak about each other.
St James teaches us: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not brindle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. [Ch. 1]
Jesus teaches us this about anger and forgiveness, the latter being the external expression of a heart which is pure, humble, meek like His own: “…whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement…[Mt. 5:22]…I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father..[Mt.5: 44, 45]…If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you your transgressions.” [Mt. 6: 14ff.]
Anything we do which is contrary to the teachings of Jesus, contrary to the Holy Gospel means we are if not deliberately, at least to a dangerous degree by slackness, withdrawing from the field of battle.
In this spiritual war there is no neutral ground.