Baudelaire’s phrase is often quoted: “The devil’s finest trick is to convince you that he doesn’t exist”… If there were certainly elements to be purified in the Christian imagination inherited from ancient times, it is clear that very often, we have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”… The problem, when we no longer talk about it in the churches, is that this reality resurfaces, often tinged with errors. In supermarket bookstores, there are countless books on angels, all imbued with esotericism and frankly flirting with paganism. When God is rejected from culture and even from Christian teaching, all the others arise. ” gods “.
A Catholic influencer claims on a social network largely frequented by young people that the devil is around “children’s stories” and that when Jesus expels evil spirits, it actually cures people of medical ailments. In short, this poor exegesis inherited from Renan is not worth much and shows a touch of the Gospels and biblical texts more than a dive into the Word of God. All this has been demonstrated 1000 times and particularly by the popes since the Council. Pope Francis, in particular, never misses an opportunity for catechesis on the theme of the Prince of this world.
I am not going to repeat these arguments here, which are widely taken up in many books or on reference websites. A simple glance at the Catechism of the Catholic Church will suffice. (no. 20850-20854 in particular). I would like to affirm here some strong convictions that inhabit the Catholic faith and that it is good to recall here:
- God is innocent of evil. Any concession to this assertion leads us away from Christian revelation. The origin of evil, as told by the account of the original fall, exonerates God from all evil. Who could say that this question is not vital? If God has any complicity with evil, then that changes everything in his face. He reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ as “the innocent lamb”.
- The devil reveals himself as the adversary of the divine plan which is to make men his children. The devil is above all the adversary of God. He comes to accuse man of all evils to make the plan of divine adoption fail in him. That’s what he did for Adam, that’s what he did successfully for Judas. All the sufferings of the Passion are like the sufferings of Jesus for Judas. Yes the plan of God can be extinguished and annihilated by the submission of the human heart to diabolical suggestions.
- The Devil is a creature. Far from the mythological stories of Antiquity which always present us with a principle of evil fighting against a principle of good, biblical revelation presents the devil to us as an angelic creature. The lack of faith and knowledge concerning the demon comes unfortunately from a lack of attention and teaching concerning the angelic world, this “unseen world” of which we affirm in the creed that God is the creator. God does not create an evil angel but each angel engages the entirety of his freedom only once (we who are in time, we can evolve in our freedom, not the angel). Lucifer, jealous of the design of filial adoption of men, then refuses to serve and is expelled from heaven with his angels (we will read with interest the 2nde Epistle of St. Peter, the Epistle to Jude and the book of Revelation on this subject).
- The devil is defeated. I am well aware of the paradox expressed here, so often does evil seem to triumph in our world. Until the moment when Jesus breathes his last on the cross, the devil seems victorious. Finally this man in whom the devil feels the divine is reduced to impotence. But this last breath is the revelation of an infinite and so surprising love. And the devil sucks at love. His defeat is total and grace will spread throughout the world. So why does evil seem to reign so strongly? I will take the somewhat trivial image of the duck whose head has been cut off and whose nervous system continues to move the wings or the beak. The devil’s power of nuisance is certainly not over. But the door of heaven is open and Salvation is possible in Jesus Christ. No one will be able to close this door anymore. It is the basis of the Christian Hope so often embodied by the saints throughout the ages. In often hellish circumstances, they were able to embody victory. Let us think of St Maximilian Kolbe singing the psalms in his dreadful dungeon at Auschwitz and accompanying his fellow prisoners with immense charity until the encounter with their Creator. What remains of Nazism today? Nothing. What remains of Maximilian Kolbe’s charity? Where is the victory? Where the love of Jesus revealed on the cross is embodied in the world.
- The liturgy teaches us the right attitude. From baptism, which is the beginning of the Christian life, the catechumen is invited to renounce Satan, not as an abstraction representing moral evil, but as an angelic being clearly identified by Christ so many times in the Gospels. . Renounce Satan to say yes to God. The Christian prayer par excellence that is the Our Father also invites us in its last request to be freed from evil. Pope Francis clarifies what this means: “When Jesus taught us the Our Father, he asked that we end by asking the Father to deliver us from evil. The term used here does not refer to abstract evil and its more accurate translation is “the Evil One”. It designates a personal being who harasses us. Jesus taught us to ask for this deliverance every day so that his power does not dominate us. » (Gaude and exultate no. 160).
- The freedom of man is the place of combat. It would be illusory not to see the devil anywhere but also very dangerous to see him victorious everywhere. It is clear that nowhere in the Holy Scriptures do we see the devil acting directly in a human decision. It’s always by suggestion that he pushes man to fall but he can’t do anything without us. We therefore understand here what St Paul tells us: “Put on God-given battle gear, so you can stand against the devil’s machinations. […] For this, take the combat equipment given by God; thus, you will be able to resist when the day of misfortune comes, and do everything to hold on. Yea, stand firm, having around your loins the belt of truth, wearing the breastplate of righteousness, your feet shod with the eagerness to proclaim the gospel of peace, and never leaving the shield of faith, which will extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, that is to say the word of God. » (Eph 6, 11-17)
Thus, far from ancient myths and children’s stories, the diabolical reality is well attested in the work of Salvation of Jesus Christ. We who are his disciples also know this reality at work in our lives and if the fight can be strong, the assurance of the prayer of Jesus marks a limit to the diabolical action. This is what Benedict XVI expressed admirably: “God gives Satan a certain freedom at all times. It often seems to us that God gives Satan too much freedom; may he grant him the faculty of shaking us too harshly, and may that exceed our strength and oppress us too much. We will ceaselessly cry out to God: “Alas, see the misery of your disciples, please protect us! » Indeed, Jesus continues: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Lk 22, 32). The Jesus prayer is the limit placed on the power of the evil one. The prayer of Jesus is the protection of the Church. We can take refuge under this protection, cling to it and place our certainty in it. (Homily from the Mass of Saint Peter and Saint Paul by Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, 2006)
Father Guy-Emmanuel Cariot is the author of the book “The impregnable citadel, a small method for resisting the adversary and obtaining liberation”Mom, 2020.
We wish to say thanks to the author of this short article for this outstanding material
Yes, the devil really exists!
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