It is said that the greatest achievement of the Devil
is that he has convinced modern Christians that he is a fictional
character. When we hear his name we are conditioned to picture a cute
cartoon character—red, with horns and a pointed tail, carrying a long and
narrow pitch-fork. He seems friendly enough; playful, although a bit
mischievous. We giggle a bit at his image. This Halloween caricature puts
us off guard so that we fail to grasp his evil intent to steal our souls.
But, perhaps an even greater achievement of the Devil
has been his success in convincing modern Christians that being a saint is
somehow strange, or weird, or anti-social. Saints are caricatured as
joyless people with long faces and pent up inhibitions—people with no
friends, who simply don’t fit anywhere in the modern world. If we are
convinced by this stereotype, it is likely that we will actually avoid
becoming saints. No one wants to be the odd one out.
But in reality, there is no greater joy and no greater
feeling of inner peace than when one is in the state of grace and doing
God’s will. We know this to be true, for it is why we were created—it is of
our very essence to be “in the state of grace and doing God’s will.” The
first man and woman were created in the state of grace. God gave them free
will because their actions would have had no merit if there were made like
machines, incapable of doing anything other than what God willed. With free
will, their good deeds were an expression of love for God, and the occasion
for receiving an even greater share of His grace.
Recognizing this for a time, Adam and Eve lived in
perfect happiness, which is to say that they lived “in the state of grace
and doing God’s will.” But then the Devil came to tempt them to
disobedience to God’s will. He didn’t have the red costume with the
pitch-fork, so he disguised himself as a serpent—this didn’t bother Eve at
all, for in those days all of the creatures in the Father’s garden were
gentle and kind (only after the fall would creation become disordered,
thereby making many of God’s creatures hostile to one another).
The Devil was no small stakes player—He tempted Adam
and Eve to commit the same sin for which he and the apostate angels had been
thrown out of heaven. For a “small” sin of disobedience they would “be like
gods.” They could have their own garden, do as they pleased, and perhaps
lord it over some of the other creatures—whatever they wanted, for now they
would have no need of the Father—they would be their own “gods.”
Of course the Devil knew where all of this would go.
When he tried it, the Father created the nether regions of
Hell as the place where Lucifer could pretend to be his own “god.” In His
wisdom, the Father understood that Adam and Eve were quite ignorant when
compared to the devils, and consequently not quite so guilty as the Devil
for his rebellion. The land outside of the Father’s garden was
inhospitable, but it was not Hell.
More importantly, the Father promised the Immaculate
Conception of a second Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary: “I will put enmities
between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy
head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
At the appropriate time, a woman would be conceived, as Eve had been, “in
the state of grace and doing God’s will.” This Blessed Virgin Mary would
demonstrate that it is possible to live one’s entire life “in the state of
grace and doing God’s will.”
The saints are not joyless people with long faces.
They are people who have taken their cue from the Holy Mother of God to live
“in the state of grace and doing God’s will.” As a result of her sinless
life she has been taken, body and soul, into the beatific vision of God! We
all have the opportunity to do the same—we may be sinners, but we have the
opportunity to repent. Through the holy Sacrament of Baptism we have been
restored to sanctifying grace. And, of course, we have the Sacrament of
Confession to deal with those sins committed after Baptism.
The Church has us read the Gospel with the Beatitudes
on this All Saints Day because the Beatitudes are a sort of formula for
Christian perfection—a formula for becoming saints.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit are those who do not concern
themselves with riches or high station in life. They accept economic
misfortune if it comes their way. If they have some degree of wealth it is
not the central aspect of their lives.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the
land.” The meek are those who suppress impatience, anger, and the
desire for revenge. That is not to say that they are emotionless, but
rather that they keep their emotions under control.
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be
comforted.” The mourners are those who mourn the state of sin in our
society, and the disrespect offered to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
They mourn because Western Civilization can no longer be called
“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after
justice, for they shall have their fill.” Those who are passionate for
virtue will no doubt have it.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain
mercy” There are many opportunities for mercy—mercy to the poor who
need our aid, mercy to those who offend us, mercy to those who actually harm
us. Mercy will be rewarded when we are in need of mercy—especially when we
need God’s mercy.
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see
God.” It is not enough to simply refrain from doing what is evil. The
clean of heart do not savor thoughts of evil when they come to mind. Only
what is pure can enter into the holy presence of God.
“Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be
called the children of God.” The only thing for the Christian to be at
war with is sin. Tranquility ought to govern our relations with all of the
people with whom we must deal. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace.
“Blessed are they that suffer persecution for
justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Being a Catholic
in a corrupt world has always been a bit risky. In just about every age
Christians have died for their Faith. We must always be prepared to profess
the Faith, no matter how inconvenient, no matter how dangerous doing so
Blessed are those who are not deceived by the
propaganda of the modern world. The Devil is real and must be resisted.
Sainthood is not an aberration to be avoided, but rather something to be
sought after at all cost. Blessed are those who are not deceived by the
propaganda of the modern world.