Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ideological Blindness and Cultural Wars

Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

In recent weeks, our entire nation has been preoccupied with the mysterious disappearance of MH 370. Although, it seems hardly possible to detect any silver lining in this otherwise sad and tragic incident, we finally have some needed reprieve from the continuous and unprecedented barrage of vitriolic hate speech coming from ultra nationalistic groups which was dominating the headlines prior thereto. Before the recent outpouring of good will and solidarity crossing religious and cultural divide, the country had been experienced an episode of polarisation that no one has ever witnessed before. It has left many thinking – where could so much hate, prejudice and of course, fear, come from? What makes us flabbergasted with the claims of these hate-mongers is that they simply defy reason and seem so blind to their own destructiveness. Perhaps, this is why some call this the dance of ideological blindness on the grave of reason. Confusion is understandable but ideological blindness is unforgivable.

An ideology is a set of conscious and unconscious ideas that constitute one's goals, expectations, and actions. It provides a comprehensive vision, a way of looking at things. Ideological blindness takes place when we assumed that ours is the only reasonable and possible worldview, thus the need to impose it on others. Ideology dogmatises its worldview and provides it with a divine stamp of approval.

Of course, no one ever thinks that they themselves are ideological. It is the other’s guy view of the world that is ideological. This too seems to be problem of the detractors of Jesus in today’s gospel account of the man born blind. The blind man, apart from his physical defect, was also a victim of ideological stereotyping and prejudice. A common mentality of the time, a mentality that was also shared by the disciples of Jesus, was that blindness at birth was the consequence of sins committed by his parents. Jesus, however, rejects this narrow ideological interpretation of his predicament and in answer to the question of his disciples of the possible cause, explains that “he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Here He provides a radical counterpoint to the blindspot of Pharisaic ideology – they fail to recognise the presence and the authority of God. Rather than to focus on the failings and limitations of the man, Jesus helps us to see the amazing Providence of God which transcends cultural, political and social divides.

One would imagined the healing of this blind man by Jesus as something readily welcomed by the religious authorities as well as by his family members. Jesus, however, ignites a controversy. Just like many ideological goal keepers of our times, when one puts on the lenses of self-righteous judgment, one does not see the forest for the trees. In the opinion of the Pharisees, Jesus had violated the Sabbath prohibition, regardless of whether a miracle did actually take place and that the life long suffering of a person had been abated. “Thus, at the end of the account, Jesus and the blind man are both cast out, the former because he broke the law and the latter because, despite being healed, he remained marked as a sinner from birth.” (Pope Benedict) Their blindness earned this indictment from Jesus: “Blind if you were, you would not be guilty, but since you say ‘we see’, your guilt remains.”

In an address the US Bishops, Pope Francis says, “The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology and ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always.

For all appearances, there seems to be an ideological battle raging within the Church today, between those who consider themselves as part of the progressive liberal camp as opposed to the conservative traditionalist camp on the other side of the divide. Liberal progressives often view themselves as closer to the heart of Christ in his treatment of the marginalised. This finds visible expression often in both their views and projects related to gay rights, feminism, liberation theology, option for the poor, and a plethora of other things, including humanising and democratising the bureaucratic Church and ‘tree-hugging.’ Traditionalists, on the other side of the divide, also view themselves as being passionately faithful to the Church. They are easily identifiable by their love for the liturgy, specifically in continuity with the pre-Vatican II form, and are steadfast defenders of the purity of Catholic teachings and practices.

Liberals often consider traditionalists as enemies of the post Vatican II Church, denigrating them as real obstacles to the necessary reforms that must sweep the Church if it is to survive another century. Traditionalists are made out to be eccentric personalities who are ideologically trapped in another era, smitten by the grandeur and power of a monarchical model of the Church, and who act as unwanted Inquisitors, doctrinal and moral gatekeepers of the Church. In their battle with traditionalism, they often confuse traditionalists with any adherence to Tradition. But Tradition isn't an ideology, it's holding fast to everything that has been handed down. Thus, every Catholic should be Traditional! But neither is Tradition a fossilised collection of teachings and practices which belong to a particular bygone era. It inherently possesses a certain organic dynamism which adapts to changing situations and new problems, as long as such reform is in continuity, rather than a rupture, with the past.

These labels are of relatively recent vintage. They are hardly helpful and in fact, quite deceptive. Thus the dichotomy between traditionalist and liberals is false. It seems to imply that being simply Catholic isn’t enough – one had to hold a particular ideological stance in order to be Catholic. These labels, as they have been used for decades, have no place in the Church. In fact, ideologies polarise the Church and thus pose a great obstacle to its mission. The irony is that champions of ideological positions often think that they are being faithful to Christ and his Church whilst they are actually blind to their own destructive actions. In the mutual vilification of the opposing camp, both remained blind to the absence of Charity or even God – thus we see a mirror of the proverbial Pharisaic blindspot.

The Church’s teachings, as faithfully handed down to us from the Apostles, remain a formidable and dynamic synthesis of the seemingly irreconcilable positions taken by both ideological camps. There is always an element of the universal, but the particular is never sacrificed. The Church’s teachings objectively appeal to reason but are nevertheless subjectively inspiring. The Church and its teachings are always permanent and eternal, and yet always reforming. Christ, both visible and Invisible, is already present in the Eucharistic species and yet we await his final return at the Parousia. The ‘both/and’ characteristic of our Catholicity allows the juxtaposition of both ends of the spectrum, without eroding its central core, Jesus, who is both God and Man.

So, what did Jesus bring? He clearly did not bring an agenda and if he did it was not very successful. He did not inaugurate world peace or an end to poverty. What Jesus brought was Himself. He brought God. Against the ideological temptations of our day, the gospel seems to have a simple inoculation. Christ first. Christ who healed the man born blind and the blindness of the world with his revealing Light. Christ found first among the weakest, the poorest and the powerless. That is the truth that every Christian hopes to seek, a truth that spans political and cultural divides, a truth that is worth “propagating” and one that will truly remove the cataracts of any ideological blindness.

It looks as if Pope Francis himself has been co-opted into the liberal progressive camp, as his constant emphasis on the love, mercy and compassion of Christ is often given the following interpretation – that he is putting the ‘orthodox’ in their place . In a comedic twist, Pope Francis in a recent in-depth interview published in an Italian newspaper debunked ideological interpretations of him by calling them “the mythology of Pope Francis”. In fact, he found the attempts to paint the Pope as some kind of Superman as downright offensive. This news was published in official Vatican media but the secular media never took it up, for obvious reasons!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We are thirsty but the Well is Deep

Third Sunday of Lent Year A

We all know what it means to be thirsty - that annoying sensation of dryness in the mouth and throat caused by the lack of fluids followed by that desire to drink. From this sensation it seems that people of almost any language use the word ‘thirst’ as a synonym for a strong desire or craving for whatever the object, like a thirst for knowledge, or a thirst for wealth. Clearly, because of the obvious analogies, thirst is a prominent theme of the Bible. In fact, “thirst” is a word loaded with figurative meaning in scriptures. The hot and dry desert climate of most parts of Palestine must have given the word ‘thirst’ an intensified meaning. Maintaining an adequate water supply for human and animal consumption, as well as for agriculture, was in biblical times a perennial problem. Thirst was a frequent and occasionally life-threatening concern. More importantly, the word is a powerful means of communicating a profoundly deep spiritual truth.

An intriguing aspect of today's story is how Jesus turned the tables on the Samaritan woman by using the analogy of thirst, water and its source, as a way of entering into a spiritual conversation with the woman. Jesus appears on the scene, apparently thirsty, asking for a drink. Pause for a moment to take that in - Jesus thirsts – also one of the last words he utters from the cross. It is consoling to note that God thirsts for us, for our liberation and our salvation. But the story soon ironically evolves into a tale that focuses on the unquenchable thirst of the woman, a thirst that cannot be sated by her unending search for love, acceptance, spirituality, and faith. This would only be possible with Christ.

At one juncture of this long conversation, Jesus would asked the woman: "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water'. The Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus is filled with sarcasm and incredulity, 'Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?' Jesus is unperturbed and replies. 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.' Who could refuse a promise like this, especially the prospect of not having to lug home a heavy bucket of water from the village well? It is no surprise that she then softens and finally concedes, 'Sir, give me this water.” Did she really understand what she was asking?

The depth of the well is a good starting point to speak of the gravity of the spiritual thirst of the Samaritan woman and that of every soul. In the ensuing debate of which is the greater shrine, the Samaritan one built close to the site of the historical well or the Jerusalem Temple - the Samaritan woman argues the preeminence of Samaritan site by praising the greatness of Jacob, the giver of the well. As far the Samaritans were concerned that well contained holy water, because historically identified with the ancestor of her race – their national hero. But irony is apparent once again. If we would run a contest for the most passionate and thirsty individual of the Old Testament, Jacob will make the top three. Who else cheats his brother and father for destiny, works fourteen years for the woman he loves, wins a wrestle match with the Angel of the Lord and procreates the nation that delivers the Messiah? Only one guy can brag about that… Jacob.

But then Jacob’s well is unable to solve the ‘unquenchable thirst’ of the Samaritan woman, indeed of every souls. Jacob’s well is a picture of the waters of this world. It speaks of every natural pleasure and ‘painkiller’ for the soul ever invented. Be it the best of technology, political ideology, entertainment, immorality, humanism and religion. The waters of this world cannot quench the profound thirst of the human heart. Quoting Jesus ‘whoever drinks of this water will thirst again’.

In 2011, Pope Benedict addressed a crowd of a half million young people in Sydney, Australia, on the occasion of the World Youth Day. He was keenly aware of the spiritual thirst of the many souls gathered there, some who had travelled long distance to catch a glimpse of the Pope, many fuelled by curiosity and the perennial thirst for an answer to life’s mysteries. Pope Benedict spoke them and told them that "in so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning?"  No doubt about it, our wells are indeed deep! The great catechist then identified the things we are thirsting for: love that endures, opportunity to share gifts, unity based on truth, communion that respects the freedom of the other person. These can be summed up as thirst or longing for three things: goodness, beauty and truth, the three transcendentals. But, said the Holy Father, instead of goodness, beauty and truth what our society offers is choice, novelty and subjective experience. Those things are not bad in themselves, but to stop there is like substituting the authentic goldmine for a poor imitation.

God created man with the capacity to worship Him and the need to be in fellowship with Him. Science fiction writer, H. G. Wells, writes that every person has a “God-shaped vacuum in his heart - a void that only God can fill.” Indeed, we humans are enfleshed yearning. Our yearning is infinite, because we have been created with a hole in our hearts, in the shape of God and nothing, absolutely nothing, can fill it up except God himself. St. Augustine put it this way, “My soul is restless ‘till it rests in Thee.” As you all know, the life of Augustine is a replay of the life of our gospel’s protagonist, the Samaritan Woman. Behind Augustine is a succession of desperate searches for fulfillment: excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophies, dissipation and distractions—futilities that left him so weary of himself. At the very moment when his yearning led him to desperation, circumstances led his eyes to a passage in Scripture – to the one thing, no, to the one person who could heal his weariness and satisfy his longing thirst, Christ.

The depth of the well proves a challenge to anyone who has no recourse to a rope and a bucket. It was certainly unimaginable that one could reach the water source and have access to its bountiful supply without some form of human machination. Therefore, the well becomes a most suitable symbol of the human soul. But the good news is that the well also symbolises the unfathomable depths of God’s love. And so buried deep within us is this spiritual aquifer – it is the place of deep communion between God’s spirit and ours. It lies hidden beneath layers of superficiality, our preoccupations with all things material and tangible, our dalliance with world delights and pursuits, our ambition for power and mastery. Though too deep for us, our wells are never too deep for Him. And when we are prepared to come on our bended knees, stripped of all pretenses of superiority or confident self-reliance, we stoop over the well—yes, often in our very darkest night of mystery and sadness—lo! the heavenly light reappears—we see the lost star of Providence mirrored in the fountain of salvation. We only have to ask, “Master, give me this water,” we are assured of a drink from the well of God’s immense riches which promises life and immortality. Thereafter, we shall never be thirsty again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Peeling away the Veil of Darkness

Second Sunday of Lent Year A

One of the most stunning and exquisite masterpieces of Italian Renaissance art is indisputably Michelangelo’s Last Judgment which occupies the entire altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. Due to the monumental scale of the work, it took four years to complete.  After the death of Michelangelo in 1564, and as a consequence of the Council of Trent condemning nudity in religious art, the genitalia in the fresco, referred to as 'objectionable,' were painted over with drapery. For centuries, the original work of art remained hidden under layers of soot, dirt, grime and the censor’s concealing paint until the commencement of restoration works in the 20th century. After the cleanup, both the restorers and the world were surprised by the discoveries of what lay beneath. The metamorphosis (the Greek word for Transfiguration) of this work of art, now unveiled its true beauty to an admiring world.

On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Church’s liturgy uses the scene of the Transfiguration to peel away at the mystery which she hopes to celebrate at the end of this Holy Season – the Passion of Christ. On the mount of Transfiguration, we have a glimpse of the true glorious nature of the scene that took place on another hill, Calvary. It’s hard to make out the innate beauty and true nature of the crucifixion, especially when it is covered by all the blood, gore and horror of the event. The Transfiguration, however, allows us to see what really took place. The gospels attempt to do this by making striking similarities between the account of the transfiguration and the story of the cross: Both these scenes would have constituted an extraordinarily powerful diptych representing the high and low points of Jesus' life.

Jesus takes Peter, James and John, his inner circle, with him up the Mount of transfiguration today. He will lead the same threesome to Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to witness his passion. History repeats itself - the three disciples fall asleep on the Mount of Transfiguration as they did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is transfigured on a mountain, and crucified on another. Just as Jesus is flanked by his heavenly courtiers, Moses and Elijah, at the Transfiguration, he is placed between two thieves at His crucifixion. Although the disciples were enveloped with light on the Mount of Transfiguration, the whole land was covered in darkness at the Crucifixion. It is as if glory and suffering somehow belong together, two sides of the same coin. In the context of the deepest humiliation, pain and suffering, the true glory of Christ is revealed. It is as if human suffering is somehow itself transfigured by the God who came to redeem it; that somehow, the destiny of the Son of God fulfils the destiny of the human race; only through the suffering of death can we enter into glory.

The Gospel of John also describes Jesus’ passion and the crucifixion as the hour of glory. But this means of glorification is troubling; how could Jesus’ ascent to the cross, a symbol of humiliation, be seen as a moment of glory? The answer lies in today’s scene of the transfiguration. What is hidden to the eyes of those who witnessed the scene of the crucifixion is now revealed to the Three Apostles and to all of us in the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration helps us to understand the Cross and Calvary would not be Jesus’ Alamo, the event commemorating his great defeat. No! The Transfiguration reveals to us what really happened on Calvary. Lifted up on a mountain, lifted up on a cross, lifted up as universal Saviour, Jesus truly ascended his throne of glory. The transfiguration indeed reveals the true divine glory of Christ.  Its purpose is to reveal to his disciples who Jesus is, and so to prepare them for the cross; in fact, the transfiguration can be seen to anticipate Easter. 

The Lord not only preached His Gospel to the people, but also educated and enlightened His disciples. And gradually He revealed Himself to them as the Messiah not only of Israel, but of all mankind, as the King of the eternal spiritual kingdom. The Messiah’s words that He would be tortured in Jerusalem would have deeply troubled His disciples. A vision of the crucifixion might have evoked the feeling of despair in Christ’s disciples, the thought that everything was irrevocably lost. It would have shaken their faith to the core. The mystery of redemption could have appeared to them as a defeat and the Messiah powerless. At a time of despondency and doubt, the three apostles’ witness to the Transfiguration was to strengthen the faith of the other disciples. And so we finally come to the heart of this deliberate juxtaposition of the two scenes. No amount of intellectual explanation would have sufficed to explain the scandal of the cross and the suffering of Christ. God had to demonstrate it. And this is what constitutes the mystery of Christianity - It attracts people not so much by its delicate and sophisticated intellectualism, nor by the brilliant oratory of its preachers, nor yet by the beauty of its rites. Christianity revealed to the human soul a new world, an eternal world, a world of divine light – that which not a single religion or philosophical system could give. It reveals to the world the beauty and sweetness of the divine mystery of its Saviour albeit hidden in human flesh and adorned with the tattered flesh of broken humanity.

Here then is the greatest paradox of all - the glory of God revealed in Jesus, and especially in that which seems to be most inglorious. To the outward eye this was the uttermost in degradation, the death of a criminal. To the eye of faith it was (and still is) the supreme glory’.

There is a point to this beautiful link between the Passion and the Transfiguration. It is seen in the manner Christianity helps its members understand suffering. Recently we concluded our parish novena with a communal anointing of the sick. The many who came had their own particular passion narrative to tell. The Sacrament which was celebrated was a sort of Transfiguration, a metamorphoses, not a physical one but a spiritual transformation. The sick and elderly, though on the outside seemed imprisoned in frail bodies wrecked with pain and infirmity, were really carriers of a much greater truth – hidden beneath the mortal fa├žade was the glory of being the beloved children of God, and they were moving quickly towards glory; to that healing re-creation that is at the heart of the Christian gospel. And so they received the Sacrament of Anointing and the Eucharist, they received healing and wholeness from the one same Christ, who chose to share our mortality that we might share his glory. 

The Transfiguration of our Saviour revealed his true identity to us as the Beloved Son of God, Light from Light, True God from True God. But this momentous event reveals something more! It reveals what is to become of us. The Transfiguration peels away the seemingly impenetrable veil that separates the world of the Invisible from our realm of the Visible. As we encounter the toils of our existence, the many tragedies that life brings, we need the light of the Transfiguration to keep us focused, strengthened, and faithful to the journey with Christ into the wilderness and along the Via Dolorosa of his Passion. We need to have before us the Transfiguration so that we may have a glimpse of the end of the story, the dawning glory of Easter, in order to be sustained in the midst the darkness, pain and isolation that we must endure not just in the remainder of these forty days but also throughout our life long Lent. In the Transfiguration we taste the sweetness often hidden in the bitterness of failure, suffering and pain. In the Transfiguration we behold the beauty and glory often covered beneath layers of soot and the grime, concealed by the awful and scandalous experience of humanity’s suffering! In the Transfiguration, we finally receive the answer to the inexplicable mysteries concealed by death, an answer that can only be found in the Resurrection!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Mother of Temptations

First Sunday of Lent Year A

In my Daily Missal, the readings for this Sunday is prefaced by a short reflection from Pope Benedict XVI, which provides a beautiful introduction and context for situating and understanding’s today’s texts. He proposes this question, “What does ‘entering Lent’ mean?”, then proceeds to answer it in this way – “It means we enter a season of special commitment to the spiritual battle to oppose the evil present in the world, in each one of us and around us.” The battle does not begin today. In fact, the story of the Bible is the story of man’s spiritual battle. In the first book, we encounter the mother of all temptation, the story of Adam and Eve. It’s a story of how power and authority, marvellous gifts from God, are subverted by man’s insatiable ambition and greed and becomes his downfall.

In fact, mastery or autonomy is God’s greatest gift to man. Adam seemingly had it made in Eden. God gave him dominion over creation. He named the animals symbolising his charge over them. Though such authority is a gift from God, it is something that man can never hope to possess, only participate in. Man’s exercise of authority is totally dependent upon his submission to God. But once we seek to possess it as our own whereby to exercise God’s authority as our own, that power becomes devoid of God’s redemptive power. At best it can preserve society (like a good police force), at worst it becomes distorted into vicious human coercion. And so, this was the real problem of Adam and Eve  - they attempted to usurp God’s power as their own. Man took the gift as a right to be independent, to be in charge of his own life, a master of his own fate. It’s just power gone bad - the result of sin.

What would have gotten into Adam and Eve to fall into the snare of Satan? They had everything. They were literally in Paradise. The answer will help us understand the dynamics and the anatomy of all temptations. We often think that we can outsmart the Devil by assuming his next move – he tempts us with bad things, right?  But the real truth is that Satan is too subtle for that – he always proposes things to us which appear to be good. As St Ignatius of Loyola reminds us, the devil comes cloaked as the Angel of Light, radiant, beautiful and tempting! He does not tempt us to evident evil but to apparent good. The first temptation, therefore, was not openly to disobey God. That would be too crass, though accurate. The devil always sugarcoats prospective sin as something good. Satan proposed a notion that would fit snugly with the drive of man to mastery, to independence, to be in charge. He promised that if Eve and Adam would eat of the tree of knowledge that they would be ‘like gods,’ knowing good and evil. What could be better than that?

Today this proposal is still the mother of temptations, to be as gods, to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. It is still the basic temptation in the world today, the temptation to reject God’s norms of right and wrong, norms implanted in human nature and in creation, the temptation to reject divine authority, either direct, or mediated through the magisterial church, and become like gods ourselves. Dissent is never an excuse that one has to think creatively. It is the product of hubris, the arrogance of man who thinks that he is smarter than God and the Church which Christ had established to provide us clear guidance and direction. Thus, to submit to the will of God, to be obedient to his voice and to listen to the tender counsel of Mother Church, is not stupidity as many would wish us to think. In fact, to resist the temptation to be gods calls for the virtues of courage and humility. We may think we know how hard it is to resist social pressure, the fear of not belonging, but without doubt we underestimate its power. It is very hard to go against social custom. We don’t want to be seen as oddballs, as religious fanatics.

And so many courageous Catholic men and women have faithfully and courageously witness to the most debated and totally unpopular beliefs, that moral standards are not established by the fiat of the powerful, nor by majority consensus, nor by opinion polls, nor by personal opinion or personal convenience. Courageous Catholics have the humility to say, “we are not gods,” we are rather sons and daughters of God. They profess that morality springs from the divine design implanted and evident in human nature, a design giving humanity stewardship, not total mastery over creation. Exaggerated distortion of independence and autonomy is the temptation which brought original ruin to humankind, and still does.

How about the temptations of Jesus? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 539), “The Evangelists also wish to indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfils Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will… Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.”

The three temptations narrated in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (though in a slightly different sequence) are three manifestations of the same mother of all temptations – to be ‘like gods’. As opposed to doing the will of the Father, Satan tempts Jesus to follow his own path and way. The devil tries to make Jesus believe the fallacy that the end justifies the means. The first temptation seems harmless enough - to make bread. It was the temptation of too much self reliance, the temptation that posits our belief that we are capable of manufacturing our own salvation through some socio-economic or political solution. The second temptation is the temptation for the spectacular and the sensational, seeking a sign, expecting God to do something special, telling him to do it my way. And finally, the third temptation is the temptation of naked power, it is taking the short cut to salvation, minus the inconvenience of the cross, and thus cancelling the need for genuine conversion.

These three accounts remind us that our major temptation, then, is not the possibility of power or sins of the flesh. Those are merely symptoms of the Great temptation. The Great Temptation—the sin of Adam —the Great Temptation is to rewrite the rules, tell God when He may and may not tell us what to do, and to live as our own God. As Pope Emeritus Benedict keenly notes in the first volume of his bestseller, Jesus of Nazareth, “At the heart of all temptations, as we see here, is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives.”

Today it is not fashionable to speak of the devil, much less to believe in him. Screwtape, C. S. Lewis’ letter-writing devil, makes a big point of how advantageous it is for the lowerarchy of devils to be considered a pious myth. It is often said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he does not exist. The story of Jesus’ temptations warns us that the devil is not a myth. Still, we can’t blame the devil for all temptation though surely he is behind much of it. Catholic Tradition lists the world, the flesh and the devil as the sources of temptation. In an age where it seems vogue to advocate pacificism, acceptance, and tolerance, we must make no mistake that there is no parlaying when it comes to the Devil. We are truly engaged in a spiritual battle and there should be no denial of this. We can either choose to stand within the ranks of God, acknowledge his authority and be counted among the free, or continue to assert our autonomy, and unknowingly become the Devil’s slave.