Most of the readers of Catholic Stand are probably aware of the wicked deception going on today in the world. St. Paul warned us about this in 2 Thessalonians 2: 10. This was addressed in a previous column here. But the purpose of this article is to see exactly how Satan tries to deceive us.
Weaknesses and Strengths
He preys on both our weaknesses AND our strengths. He and his legions have been observing us from the crib, and they know all of our imperfections. Like a good military tactician, Satan will look for a weak point in our character, whether it be lust, greed, gluttony, envy, anger, pride, or sloth (the seven deadly sins), and then attack us with either a very likable person (who will lead us astray) or a worldly opportunity to try to make us fall. Usually, he won’t do this when we are at our strongest, but rather, he will wait for a weak time in our lives, like a death in the family, a divorce, money problems, etc., to spring his trap. Like the old Mission: Impossible series, he will set up a false reality to make us say and do things that we wouldn’t ordinarily say or do. Satan’s likable person will usually come out of nowhere, and will present a very pleasant appearance and personality. We, the victims, will feel really great when we are around them. However, the flip side of being around this person is that he/she will tempt us strongly to do something we know is wrong. We will always feel terrible and guilty when we are away from him/her. This is by design, so that we will want their company even more. An opportunity to get what we always wanted out of this life, whether it be free sex, getting rich quick, getting even with someone, etc., will usually be presented to us as the hook. Only the Christians truly grounded in Scripture and the sacraments will be able to withstand this assault.
But what about our strengths? Yes, just like a martial arts master will defeat you using your own body weight and your anticipated assault against him, the devil works much in the same way with your moral strengths. Let’s say that you have a great desire to help the down and out. Slowly the thought will creep in: you are such a great person for being so generous. You’ve done so much to help others… all on your own. You deserve the credit. Gone is any notion of God’s grace enabling you to act with true charity. Instead, it is replaced by deadly pride. Pride is a common temptation tactic for the devil, but not the only one.
Words Mean Things
Another way the devil fools us is with wordsmithing. We don’t call abortion killing a baby; we call it “choice” or “terminating a pregnancy.” We don’t condemn sodomy as being a biblical evil; rather we approve of it by calling it being “gay.” We don’t call embryonic stem cell research ghastly experimentation on the unborn; we call it modern scientific research to help the handicapped (to date, this research has produced zero benefits). We don’t call assisted suicide killing the terminally ill; instead we call it the soothing “right to die.” We don’t call pornography evil; rather, it is said that it is a healthy natural form of “free-speech.” And after all of the new nice-sounding names have been applied to evil things, then the devil will bombard us with nice-looking people on TV who say that it’s all just so wonderful and okay and if you disagree with them on this, then you are some kind of unenlightened medieval bigot (name-calling is a sure sign that they are immature and don’t have a decent argument) who is “on the wrong side of history,” whatever that means. These are called news “programs” for a reason, and that reason is that they are programming us with the love of human secularism over the love of Christ.
We must never forget that Satan can implant thoughts in our brains as well, through suggestion. These totally out-of-the-blue thoughts to kill someone, to eat like there’s no tomorrow, to get drunk, to commit fornication, to cheat on a hard test, to say something evil about someone, etc., can come from ourselves, of course, but they can also come from the demons that are assigned to us. Usually a demon will latch on to one or more of our moral weaknesses and intensify it. For instance, instead of getting mad, we will fly into a rage. Or instead of just admiring a pretty person and moving on, we will start to lust mightily. When these bad thoughts occur, and we are tempted to give in to them, we should always say a “Hail Mary” or the “St. Michael the Archangel” prayer. Repeat as necessary!
So many people, when exposed one time to pornography or drugs, become addicted to them. They are continually exposing themselves more and more to these things in search of the original high, which never comes again, but instead, always diminishes. But the greater good is that the Bible says in Romans 5:20 that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” All we have to do is to take advantage of that promise in the confessional and at Holy Communion.
Why Me, Lord?
A lot of people wonder why they are being attacked by Satan when they are such good Christians, and the no-goodnick across the street never seems to be bothered by these things. It’s very simple. Satan knows that the no-goodnick, unless he repents later on, is already hell-bound, so why should he spend one second of his time on him? The devil knows that his own time is short, so he realizes he must go after the people who are slipping away from his grasp, namely, the good Christians who are following Christ’s teachings to the best of their ability.
He can do this to us by suggesting to us that the Eucharist is just symbolic, rather than the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, so why go to Mass anyway? He whispers to us that our sins aren’t so bad, and who needs to go tell their sins to a priest in the confessional? After all, God is loving and forgiving, and confession is just such a bother. If the devil can lead us away from the sacraments, he has gained a giant foothold on us, because the sacraments dispense sanctifying grace, which is a share in divine life. Like a flak jacket, sanctifying grace protects us from his assaults. He will also suggest to us that reading the Bible is a total waste of time. So many people have fallen for this trap, because they either don’t know or don’t care that the wages of sin is death, all the while proudly proclaiming that they are for abortion and so-called “homosexual marriage.” “My people perish for lack of knowledge,” says Hosea 4:6.
Diabolic Means Divided
The devil can also divide us. How many husbands and wives have gotten divorced after they took a vow before God to “love, honor, and obey till death do us part?” Many! This is because the devil gets into the marriage and divides and conquers by suggesting that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence! It may indeed seem that way on the surface, but only because the evil one has fertilized it first! Married people HAVE to put each other first in the marriage AND they need to be grounded in the sacraments and Scripture to withstand this assault. (Spousal abuse is a separate case and divorce may be the only solution here).
Diversions and Discouragement
Satan can also divert our attention away from what’s really important. He will whisper to us that the most important thing in life is more money, work, a bigger house, fewer children, more vacations, a bigger car, etc., so that we forget that our salvation is the most important thing in our life. Like a magician on stage who fools our senses into believing the illusion he presents is real (by distracting us from what is really going on), Satan can cause our downfall by getting us to concentrate on unimportant earthly things that won’t even be here a million years from now, instead of on the eternal realities of the Kingdom of God.
The Evil One can also oppress us by causing failures at work, at home, with friends, etc. Sometimes, no matter how hard we work or love, situations can occur which totally deflate our egos, our bank account, and our mental health. Running on empty is never easy. Just know that Jesus went through the same thing when he walked the earth. He cured the sick, raised the dead, and made people feel great. But then he was executed by his own people. Always use the forgiving Christ as your measuring stick, not the guy at work or your neighbor. Forgiveness and humility will help to defeat the enemy every time, along with praying to our Mother Mary and our guardian angel when tempted.
The Bible verse, “Satan masquerades as an angel of light,” from 2 Corinthians 11:14 cannot be emphasized enough. A lot of people say that “seeing is believing,” but in the wicked deception that Paul warns us about, that isn’t necessarily true. Both angels and demons can take other forms. We have the word of the saints on this.
Never, ever fool around with Ouija boards or the occult, as those are demonic gateways for the demons to enter and control your life. And remember: Satan cannot read our minds, but he certainly can hear what we say out loud, so don’t vocally wish for anything stupid, like unlimited sex, or that someone would die. He may just grant you your wish, to your eternal downfall. Also, we should never say things like, “I would never cheat on my spouse,” UNLESS you add the phrase, “with the help of God.” Adding that phrase shows humility; omitting that phrase means that the devil looks upon your statement as a dare, and he will act on it. Satan will always outwit you with his superior mind, but he cannot outwit you if do good works from your heart, because he doesn’t have a heart!
Never forget that Satan goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, while Christ, the Lion of Judah, goes around wanting people to eat His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist to overcome Satan’s ravenous appetite for us!
A great book to read on all of this, is “A Message of Hope,” by Deborah Lipsky, a Third Order Dominican, who used to be a Satanic High Priestess. Also, Paul Thigpen recently published “Manual for Spiritual Warfare,” which is an excellent book to have in order to learn how to overcome Lucifer’s wiles.