The devil is able to pretend to be a great gentleman, says Pope Francis. We need the "high road of Christian life" to keep him and his gang out.
Pope Francis said this December 14 that he is wrapping up his teaching series on discernment, the art of finding God’s voice in the midst of all the noises of the world and our own weakness.
He said that now that we’ve gone over various tactics to discern well, there is an “essential attitude” to make sure that all our hard work isn’t lost. And that is the “attitude of vigilance.”
Because, the Pope explained, “there is a risk, and it is that the ‘spoilsport,’ that is, the Evil One, can ruin everything, making us go back to the beginning, indeed, in an even worse condition.”
The Holy Father noted that Jesus preaches a lot on the need for vigilance, “on the fact that the good disciple is vigilant, does not slumber, does not let himself become too self-assured when things go well, but remains alert and ready to do his duty.”
Final Coming and also today
Pope Francis said this attitude of vigilance shouldn’t just be about Jesus’ coming at the end of time, or our own death, but should just be the normal attitude of daily life.
“If vigilance is lacking,” he warned, “there is, as we were saying, a very high risk that all will be lost. It is a danger not of a psychological order, no, but of a spiritual order, a real snare of the evil spirit.”
How does he do it?
The Pope then detailed how Satan works this evil.
He awaits precisely for the moment in which we are too sure of ourselves, and this is the danger: “But I am sure of myself, I have won, now I am fine…” – this is the moment he is waiting for, when everything is going well, when things are going “swimmingly” and we “have the wind in ours sails.”
The Pope noted how this is what happens in Jesus’ parable abut the man who gets his house in order, and the devil returns to it, finding it “empty, swept,” and brings along his friends.
He finds it nicely prepared, doesn’t he? Everything is in its place, everything is in order, but where is the master of the house? He is not there. There is no-one keeping watch over it and guarding it. This is the problem. The master of the house is not home, he left, he was distracted, I don’t know; or he is at home but has fallen asleep, and therefore it is as though he were not there. He is not vigilant, he is not alert, because he is too sure of himself and has lost the humility to safeguard his own heart. We must always safeguard our home, our heart and not be distracted and go away … because the problem is here, like the Parable said.
Satan is able to take advantage of our lack of vigilance, our false security, the Pope said. And “he does not return alone, but along with ‘seven other spirits more evil than himself’ (v. 45). A company of evil-doers, a gang of delinquents.”
But how is it possible, we wonder, for them to enter undisturbed? How come the master does not notice? Was he not so good at discerning and banishing them? Did he not receive compliments from his friends and neighbours for that house, so beautiful and elegant, so tidy and clean? The house of the heart, isn’t it?
Yes, but perhaps precisely because of this he had fallen too much in love with the house, that is, with himself, and had stopped waiting for the Lord, waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom; perhaps for fear of ruining that order he no longer welcomed anyone, he did not invite the poor, the homeless, those who disturbed [his order] …
One thing is certain: Here bad pride is involved, the presumption of being right, of being good, of being in order. Very often we hear someone say: “Yes, I was bad before, I converted and now, now my house is in order thanks to God, you can rest assured…”. When we trust too much in ourselves and not in God’s grace, then the Evil One finds the door open. So, he organizes the expedition and takes possession of that house. And Jesus concludes: “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (v. 45).
Pope Francis said the devil’s strategy to make sure the master doesn’t notice is to stay courteous and polite.
These are polite demons: They come in without you noticing, they knock on the door, they are polite. “No, all is well, come, come, come in…” and then eventually they take command of your soul.
Beware of these little devils, these demons … the devil is polite, when he pretends to be a great gentleman, isn’t he? For he enters with ours to come out with his. Safeguard the house from this deception, that of polite demons. And spiritual worldliness takes this route, always.
Francis concluded with the warning that though “it seems impossible, it is so.” While we might think we know how to recognize temptation, or that we have converted to the Lord, we don’t persevere because we lack vigilance. Because:
The devil knows how to dress up as an angel, he enters with courteous words, and he convinces you, and in the end, it is worse than at the beginning … We need to stay vigilant, keep watch over the heart. …
If I were to ask each one of you today, and also myself, “What is happening in your heart?” perhaps we would not know how to say everything; we would say one or two things, but not everything. Keep watch over the heart, because vigilance is a sign of wisdom, it is above all a sign of humility, because we are afraid to fall, and humility is the high road of Christian life.