Anon wrote the following: “I think this whole topic (of “evil is all around us”) begs the question about the origins of evil- where does it come from? As all good originates from God, does all evil originate from Satan? If we have free will and choose sin, where does Satan factor in to the equation? One topic I’ve never addressed, and never really wanted to learn about before, is the concept of Satan among us. Maybe it’s juvenile, but it freaks me out. I knew a priest a while ago (he’s since died), who was thought to have had “battles” with Satan. I was at dinner with him one night, and one of the hosts asked a question about the rumors of sounds coming from his room at the rectory, and I promptly excused myself before he could answer. The idea that there is evil in the world, and even the idea that I have perpetuated some of it is something I can deal with. The idea that Satan may have been at work when I did any of those things really disturbs me. The idea of Satan as a real physical manifestation in anyway bothers me beyond words.”
I commented on this in my homily on the first Sunday of Lent last year and have included excerpts from it below. I spoke about a priest who did battles with the Devil in the 19th century in France as well as the origin of evil (free will). For me, it would probably be scary to have a confrontation with the Devil but I would be internally psyched! If the Devil ever attacks me outwardly, it would mean that he is threatened by my ministry. It sounds scary about the priest that you mentioned, Anon, but it’s a great statement about how powerful a priest he was, by the Grace of God. And, please keep in mind what St. Paul says in Romans 8:38: “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities…nor any power…will be able to come between us and the love of God known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
“In a rare outward appearance, the Devil tried to disrupt St. John Vianney’s ministry of healing. Many nights, he would attack Fr. Vianney; people heard loud and strange noises coming from the rectory. One night, they saw fire coming from Fr. Vianney’s bedroom: the Devil had lit Father’s bed on fire! At first, Fr. Vianney was afraid, but then he got used to the attacks. He finally figured out the timing of it all: every night the Devil came to attack him, a big sinner would come to Confession the next day – someone who hadn’t been to Confession in 20 or 30 or more years. With the help of Christ, St. John Vianney withstood the attacks of Satan, and won victory over him.
The Devil makes another rare appearance in today’s Gospel: he tempts Jesus in the desert three times. Usually, Satan works in invisible and very subtle ways. His main objective is to take people away from God without them even knowing of his presence. The Devil is not an evil God; he is not on the same level as God. He is an angel, a fallen angel. He used to be known as Lucifer which means “light-bearer”. He was the top and brightest angel. Like all angels, he was given a free choice to either serve God forever or reject Him forever. He and about 1/3 of the angels in Heaven chose to reject God because they were filled with pride.
The Book of Revelation, chapter 12, verse 7, says that a battle ensued between St. Michael and the good angels and Satan and the fallen angels. The good guys won! They crushed the demons, and cast them down to earth. Satan and his legion of demons now wage spiritual warfare on earth. He has made his presence known a few times – the Garden of Eden, to Christ in the desert, and to a few people like St. John Vianney. It’s very important for us to know that the Devil can never force us to do anything against our will. He tempts us in brilliant ways; he is much smarter than any of us. On our own, we can’t defeat him; but, with the help of God, we will be safe and win victory over our Enemy.”