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September 20, 1991     The Message
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10 Viewpoint The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana September 20, 1991 By ZIBA GRAHAM Guest Columnist A reflection on good and evil In the late sixties I recall seeing a bumper sticker saying "God is dead." More recently I saw one with the slogan "The Devil is dead." It seems appropriate that ths more recent saying is a sign of the times. I am sure that part of the Devil's strategy is for people to think that he is dead or nan-existent. There are many ways the Devil tries to influence our lives to try to break our relation- ship with God. We know that the Devil is the prince of this world, and he tries to make us seek after the things of this world. When Jesus was tempted, as described in Luke 4:5-7, the Devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and said they were his to give, and Jesus did not deny that statement but simply said, "We must worship God, and Him alone." The temptations of this world are related to the improper emphasis on money, sex, and power which are the opposites of the traditional vows many religious communities take of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Many of the messages we hear from the world correspond to these misguided values. "If it feels good do it," "I am always first," "Money is every- thing," "He who has the most toys wins," and "Only the strong will survive" are all samples of slogans that try to get us to accept worldly values. Along with this striving after what the world has to offer come the feelings of "Is this all?" or feel- ings that everyone else is doing better. The world demands that we be successful while God calls us to be faithful. The world puts things first, but God puts people and relationships first. The Bible is primarily about relationships between different people and betweerL God and his people. The world focus is on the material and tries to deny the existence of the spiritual. The world also teaches us to take things to the extreme in an "all the way, baby" attitude and is never satisfied. We know, however, that most things are not evil in themselves but become evil only when abused. The world tries to appeal to us with conditional love and an attitude of getting rather than giving. But we know that God is satisfied with us and loves us with unconditional love. In addition to being the prince of the natural world, the Devil also is a supernatural being. Be- cause of this it is important to test any new and different thing to ensure that it is from God and not from the Evil One. John tells us to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4: 1), and we do this by testing everything against the Scrip- tures, our Church teachings and traditions, and with our Christian community. One thing the Devil cannot do is produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kind- ness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. These fruits are only of God and are pro- duced in us by the Holy Spirit. There is no scarci- ty of these fruits, and, in fact, the more they are given the more there is to give away. Another trait the Evil One seems to exibit is that he is always in a hurry. It is as if he knows he has lost the war and must act quickly to pull as many people down with him in the remaining time that he has. He influences us to act in a hasty manner without taking time to pray about things. His motto seems to be that you must act now or miss something. Some temptations seem to move along in fast forward, and we are caught in a situ- ation before we can really think it through. Being in a rage is like that, totally opposite from the gifts of the Spirit. Our true Father in Heaven, however, seems to have plenty of time. In the Old Testament, God al- ways waited for His people to return to Him. He always kept His part of the covenant and waited patiently. Jesus has time for us. He doesn't push us but nudges us in the right direction. There is time for prayer and reflection before a decision is made, and He always forgives us and takes us back when we sin. He has time for us if we have time for Him. Another thing the Devil does is to tryto get us to live in the past or the future and not to accept the present. Worrying about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future creates fear and anxiety. Dwelling on past events and keeping secrets can also create an inability to accept for- giveness. The Devil likes to confuse us with shouldn't have's, what if's, and ought to's, and he prods our immaginations into the past or future with, at times, harmful results. Jesus wants us to be present to Him now. He doesn't want us to worry about tomorrow but to live one day at a time (Matt 6:34). As of this pre- sent moment all sins are forgiven and all people are redeemed. Jesus doesn't want us to be anxious or to live in the past or the future but to be pre- sent to Him as He is to us right now. Perhaps the most destructive tool the Devil uses is to attempt to psychologically isolate us from other people and especially from God and our Christian community. This is not the same as being alone. Many times being alone enables us to be in closer communication with God as Jesus did when He went alone to the desert or to the mountain. Being emotionally or psychologically isolated is to feel worthless, or inferior, that no one else cares about you and that you must rely only on yourself. In this state of isolation problems seem much larger than they really are; the focus tends to be inward rather than outward, and God seems unreachable. It might be a time of control and manipulation rather than surrender, when prayer seems futile and giving or receiving for- giveness impossible. God is often seen fis punish- ing, frightening, vengeful and unforgiving, and there is a fear of rejection by Him and other peo- ple. Sometimes this isolation results in guilt, a kind of indifference, feeling like a victim, or an inability to feel anything. The Devil tells us we must be totally independent and that we don't have a right to be happy. Often this results in self punishment and a feeling that only bad things happen. It is not what h@pens to you that is im- portant but how you react to what happens. In the end this isolation makes you see death as the ultimate in loss of control instead of the act of joining with God as the untimate act of surren- der. In order to break this isolation it is necessary to reach out. Praying and reading the Bible help to reestablish our relationship with God, and at times a Christian counselor or spiritual advisor can be of great help. Reaching out to our Chris- tian community is also essential to feeling a sense of belonging to a group with similar be- liefs. The Devil is alive and well in today's world. If we know his purpose and methods we can rec- ognize when he is present in a situation. We also know that Jesus is stronger than the Devil, and if we stay close to Jesus we have nothing to fear. In our day to day world it is easy to forget that there is a continual battle for our souls. Jesuit tells educators to help end confusion over church teachings WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Unless religious educators help Catholics to differentiate between infallible and non- infallible church teachings, there will continue to be "un- necessary conflicts between Christianity and culture," a Jesuit scholar told a national meeting of U.S. bishops and Catholic educators. 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