Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Enemies of the Soul

1. It is Christian teaching that we have three enemies which are a constant threat to our salvation. The first is the devil, an invisible but very powerful foe.

The devil was once an angel of beauty. He had gifts superior to those of men and.was in a state of happiness. But God required from him a proof of his fidelity before he could merit the everlasting reward for which he had been destined.

Lucifer was proud of his beauty-and power. Believing that he was equal to the Most High God, he rebelled against his Creator and drew with him into eternal ruin innumerable bands of disloyal angels. Their sin was greater than ours because they had been endowed with a superior intellect and their will was not subject to the pull of the sensitive appetites of a material body. This is why God did not give them time to repent but condemned them immediately to the everlasting torments of Hell. It is false to imagine, however, that they are confined as it were, in one place. Being pure spirits, they can with God's permission wander throughout the world, carrying their hell within themselves. Moreover, they can endanger in a thousand ways our eternal salvation. The Gospel often speaks of diabolical temptations and obsessions, and St. Peter warns us to be continually on our guard against the onslaughts of the enemy. Be sober, he says, be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same suffering befalls your brethren all over the world. (I Peter 5:8)

It is the same now as it was in the time of Jesus and His Apostles.

We do not see this infernal spirit, but we feel his presence. Let us remember what St. Augustine wrote about him. "The devil," he said, "is a mastiff in chains. He can bark, but he cannot bite unless we yield to his evil suggestions and approach him. Watch and pray."

2. The second enemy is the world. There are so many beautiful things around us, reflecting the power and the goodness of God. These should be an invitation to us to love their Creator, and a spiritual ladder which leads us towards Him. Unfortunately, we often go astray in the midst of the passing beauty of this world. Often we set our hearts upon this beauty, our hearts which should belong wholly to God and which can find peace and happiness in Him alone. Sometimes worldly objects deceive the senses and ensnare the will. Riches, pleasures, and honours attract us and we fail to remember that everything on earth passes like a shadow and that when we shall stand before the judgment seat of God, only our good works will accompany us.

3. Our most terrible enemy, however, is in ourselves-our body, which by sinning can rebel against the soul and against God. The flesh lusts against the spirit, says St. Paul, and the spirit against the flesh. (Gal. 5:17) Although he had reached the highest peak of sanctity, Paul still complained of the temptations of the flesh, which continued to buffet his soul like messengers of Satan. (2 Cor. 12:7)

We experience carnal urges far more strongly than he did. We should resist them by faith and by prayer, keeping close to Almighty God. It is fatal to lay down our arms, for the flesh with its evil designs will seize its advantage and become the relentless tyrant of the soul. Then, under the guise of satisfying our desires, it will make us unhappy in this life and will condemn us for ever in the next.