By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 23, 2016
The devil is a master of disguises. In the Bible he is called a serpent, a dragon and a roaring lion—while St. Paul tells us Satan can even transform himself into “an angel of light.”
This point of view, however, runs headlong with Jesus’ own encounters with demons in the Gospels, where it’s clear he wasn’t casting “symbols” out of people but rather sinister—and quite real—beings.
And it certainly wasn’t a symbol that tempted Judas, since we are told in no uncertain terms that Satan crept into his heart before that terrible betrayal. Judas had already welcomed the devil because he was a thief who helped himself to money set aside for the poor.
He was a greedy man who went on to betray his friend for more wealth. And once Judas realized what he had done, he succumbed to the next satanic temptation—which was suicide.
In “Saints Who Battled Satan: Seventeen Holy Warriors Who Can Teach You How to Fight the Good Fight and Vanquish Your Ancient Enemy,” Paul Thigpen details how 17 “holy warriors” were attacked by demonic forces—and ultimately triumphed.
Thigpen describes how St. Benedict of Nursia was assailed with sexual images, and Ignatius of Loyola spent months in spiritual combat and at one point considered suicide. And the devil tried to lure Teresa of Avila from entering the convent by assuring her she was too weak to withstand its trials.
How does Satan get to us today? He offers the same temptations and snares, really. Power and money and all the trimmings of this earthly life in exchange for our souls.
Sometimes he dangles a promotion before us, which might entail taking a job that conflicts with our values. Sometimes he promises us greater fulfillment and happiness if we break our marriage vows—and assures us that “everyone is doing it.”
Satan may also try convincing us our lives are meaningless and we’d be better off dead. How many people have committed suicide because—in a moment of darkness and desperation—they bought into that lie?
Life may suddenly seem meaningless when you lose someone you love dearly or face a crushing medical diagnosis. It takes a lion’s share of courage—and faith—to trust that God will take care of you, no matter what.
My husband’s death 10 months ago meant losing the center of my existence. What reason did I have to go on living?
Each day I plodded along, distracting myself until the next wave of grief hit and I collapsed in tears. Each night, I thought, “Well, I’ve survived another day without him.”
For people in extreme emotional anguish, death can seem to be a “cure.” The devil knows when we are most vulnerable and that’s when he will strike. He will offer us an escape, just as he did for Judas.
When everything is good, when life is celebratory, when death seems far off, when the coffers are full, when your health is fine—you don’t search for the light, because it is all around you.
But this can be a false light that comes from the world—and in a second, it can be extinguished.
There is another light, deep and eternal, that has nothing to do with the vicissitudes of life. This is the brightness we must seek, no matter how bleak our circumstances.
The eternal light of Christ gives true and deep meaning to our lives. And no one—not even the devil in all his clever disguises—can snuff it out.
Artwork (“Cerulean Dragon,” wooden wall hanging) by Jef Murray. For information on artwork, please contact Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org.