Satan -- An Enemy to Take Seriously

Author: M. B. Bonacci


By Mary Beth Bonacci

"This marvelous world -- so loved by the Father that He sent His only Son for its salvation -- is the theater of a never-ending battle being waged for our dignity and identity as free, spiritual beings." -- Pope John Paul II, Mass at Cherry Creek Park

So we're "spreading the Gospel." We're evangelizing the world. We're telling everybody the Good News about how God loves us. Christ died for us and we can live happily ever after if we follow Him. And we've got the Holy Spirit to make sure we say it right. What could go wrong?

A lot. We have opposition. Big opposition. As Pope John Paul II says, there's a battle being waged for our "dignity and identity as free, spiritual beings."

The concept of "battle" implies the existence of combatants on opposing sides. Who are they? Well, We've seen the lineup for our side. We're the ones out in the battlefield, spreading the Gospel. And we're operating under the brilliant leadership of our three-person Commander-in-Chief, God. God the Father is directing the action. Christ actually came down into the trenches to help us out. And the Holy Spirit acts in and through all of us, fortifying us.

Quite an impressive cast of characters. Who's lined up on the other side? Well, their leader is someone everybody seems to have forgotten about. (Well, everyone except the Church Lady on "Saturday Night Live.")

They're led by the Prince of Darkness, the Father of Lies. Their leader is Satan -- the devil.

It's not particularly popular to believe in Satan these days. Most people think of a little horned guy in red tights and they can't believe anyone could take him seriously. They figure they don't need to worry about him.

I figure we do need to worry about him. I've got it on pretty good authority that we should. Christ said so Himself -- constantly. He was always warning us about the Evil One and telling us to remain strong and vigilant so that we wouldn't be susceptible to his traps and temptations. The whole reason Christ came was to conquer Satan and to release the grip he had on the world.

Satan is not a man and he's not a god. He's an angel -- an angel gone really bad. What happened was this. When God created the angels, He created them like he created us -- with free will. They could choose to accept or reject Him. It's hard to imagine an angel rejecting God; after all, they're right there with Him. They can see Him. They know how great He is. But for some reason, Satan and his crew rejected God anyway. They refused to worship God. They wanted to be number one themselves, and God was getting in the way.

Well, heaven's an awfully big place, but there's no room there for people (or angels) who won't worship God. They just don't fit in too well. So, since these guys weren't going to play by the rules, they were cordially invited to leave. They were thrown out.

Where did they go? They went to the only place where they could be comfortable. Those who reject God are very uncomfortable in His presence. They need to be far away from Him. So they were sent to the only place where the presence of God is completely absent. That place, of course, is hell.

So what's Satan doing down there today? Feeling sorry for himself for missing out on heaven? No way. He's so far away from God he can't even comprehend that. Besides, he's too busy. He's trying to get us down there to join him. I guess misery loves company.

How does he operate? He works on our free will. We have the ability to accept or reject God, just like he did. God wants us to accept. Satan wants us to reject and he tries to influence us. He tries to make sin look really appealing to us. He tells us sin will make us better, stronger, happier people. He whispers to us, as he whispered to Adam and Eve, "You shall be like gods."

Being an angel, Satan is a whole lot more powerful than humans are. He's faster and smarter. He can influence us inside our brains. He can distort our attitudes and the circumstances of our lives.

Satan is not, however, as powerful as God. He's not some kind of equal "anti-God" that God has to fight with so that He can work His plan without interference. God created Satan and He could crush him in a heartbeat.

A teacher of mine once told me that Satan is like a football coach. He watches the films of our lives like a coach watches the films of last week's game. And then he plans his strategy. Where were you weak? Where are there openings he could get into? When is your guard down?

Once he's found those openings, he uses them relentlessly. Are you lonely? He'll tempt you with sex, or with a relationship with someone he knows is dangerous to you spiritually. Depressed? He'll tempt you with booze or drugs. Happy? He'll convince you that you don't need God in your life at all.

So how do we overcome this enemy? Well, first of all we need to know that God has already overcome him. We know how the war ends and we know that God wins. But in the middle, we could be casualties if we're not careful.

We avoid being casualties by putting on the "armor of Christ." We need to stay very, very close to Him and we need His grace and His Holy Spirit active in our lives constantly. That Spirit gives us the wisdom to see Satan and his temptations for what they really are -- counterfeits taking us away from the love of God. And He gives us the strength to resist him.

If we're going to follow God, and if we want to lead others to Him, we need to take Satan very seriously. We shouldn't get lazy and figure we'll be fine on our own, because we won't. He's a lot smarter than we are and he knows exactly where we're weak. We'd be really stupid to try to resist him on our own. We need to pray for grace and we need to be constantly vigilant.

Because when we get tempted, it could be just us, or it could be, hmm...

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the January 12, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.