Angel of Light
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius says that when the enemy of our human nature finds that he cannot tempt us to break the commandments switches tactics and instead comes to us as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) to draw us away from God's love. May God deliver us from the hands of our enemy so that we may "draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation" (Is 12:3).
The Church teaches us to confess that we are not worthy so that we can appreciate the greatness of God's love for us. The Angel of Light insinuates that because we are not worthy, we are unlovable. God is love. God loves us because He is beautiful, not because we are. Our beauty comes from Him and returns to Him. He loves us as we are right now. Most of us are works in progress or unfinished business, but God is not afraid of what our renovation will cost Him. One of His names is Emmanuel, "God with us." He camps with us, as He did with Israel, showing us the way by night and by day. We can't increase His love for us by anything we do. We are not worthy of such love or such a lover, but this is the great good news burning like a fire in our hearts. Love is with us. Love is for us. Love is in us. Love endures.
Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. The Angel of Light says, "Good Christians have no enemies. If you call someone an enemy, then you are not a good Christian." If we cannot identify those who have hurt us, we cannot forgive them or love them as Jesus loves us. We become too proud to obey Jesus, serving a false ideal of "Christianity" instead of Christ, the King.
Many believers are haunted by the idea that if they really loved God, they would never suffer. They reason that, on account of their strong faith, God will provide for all their needs, they will never experience fear, uncertainty, or doubt, and they will dwell in peace that surpasses understanding and defeats all the torments of mind, heart, body, or soul. But pain hurts. Jesus suffered. So do we. Although Jesus was in perfect communion with the Father in the Spirit, He felt the full force of rejection by sinful humanity and the torture inflicted on Him by the Romans. It is not the good Spirit that inspires us to think that our faith can and should save us from the kind of agony that Jesus experienced. "Some enemy has done this!" (Mt 13:28).
It is, of course, true that Jesus said, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you." The Angel of Light says, "If you had faith, you would never be tempted; if you had faith, you would never suffer; if you had faith, you could make God do anything you want Him to do." Infected by that false premise, we then interpret temptation, suffering, or disappointment with God as proof that we don't have faith. Then we get all cross-eyed trying to figure out how to increase our faith. The end result is that we lose sight of the One Who loves us with love beyond all telling. Bossing trees around is not our job. Our job is to dwell in the presence of the Gardener and do whatever He tells us to do, even if it means picking up our cross and following Him "through the valley of the shadow of death" (Ps 23).
- St. Philip Neri, maxim for Friday, June 27
- The devil has a crafty custom of sometimes urging spiritual persons to penances and mortifications, in order that by going indiscreet lengths in this way, they may so weaken themselves as to be unable to attend to good works of greater importance; or be so intimidated by the sickliness they have brought upon themselves as to abandon their customary devotions, and at last turn their backs on the service of God.
Temptations of Good People
- Msgr. Charles Pope
- He can discourage you with prayer by saying, “If only you would pray a little longer, God will give you what you seek.” But the deception is that if we can pray a little longer, then we can never have prayed enough. Thus though we pray, we only feel guilty and inadequate.
- Satan can take the beautiful practice of praying the rosary, or attending daily Mass, or other devotions and slowly incite in us a feeling of smug superiority, elitism, or pride.
- Satan can also take what IS required and turn it into a kind of religious minimalism, a way of keeping God at a distance. And thus he tempts some souls with the notion that Sunday Mass, a little something in the collection plate, and a few rushed prayers are the end of religion rather than the beginning of it.
- Satan can take religious zeal and corrupt it into harsh and uncharitable zealotry. He can take a love for the beauty of the Liturgy, ancient or new, and turn it into a persnickety insistence on exactly the right ingredients, at the expense of charity and at the cost of ridicule, false superiority, and disunity.
- Satan can take the beautiful love for the poor and corrupt it into an enslaving paternalism that locks them into dependency, or does not address their spiritual needs by speaking to them respectfully of their sins, or does not seek to deepen their spiritual and family lives. And thus the beautiful corporal works of mercy are either set at odds with the spiritual works of mercy or are considered adequate in themselves. Satan can send many to serve the poor, armed with half-truths and approaches that merely bandage deeper wounds without addressing them.