Make sure the devil has one hell of a Lent Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

And so, we begin Lent. It strikes me as though yesterday was Labor Day and yet, here we are. There was the possibility that Ash Wednesday might be overshadowed for some by the blissful celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

However, a far more sinister overshadowing overtook them both. Once again, wonderful young people, with their whole lives ahead of them, were meaninglessly and horrendously slaughtered and injured. So many family lives were changed forever, and not for the better.

Sadness really hung around this St. Valentine’s Day. Deep sadness. And, if any good was to come from this sadness, I hope that it awakened our consciousness to Lent and to our own mortality and need for both repentance and salvation.

Confrontation with the devil

This past Sunday we heard that the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, to be tempted by the devil (Mk 1:12-15). He drove Jesus out, into a face-to-face confrontation with him who is pure evil. This confrontation was therefore necessary for the sinless, only begotten Son of God.

And as we begin Lent, that tells us, in a way, that this confrontation with the devil is what Lent is all about. For while Jesus has the ultimate victory over the devil in the life to come, in this world the devil maintains his camp, and so we too must confront him.

As regards the shootings on Ash Wednesday, the Governor of Florida himself said, more than once, we have no explanation of this except that it is the activity of pure evil. That’s as close as a politician can come to saying the devil had his hand in this. Who, but the devil, desires the death of innocents? Just as he did with the Holy Innocents after Jesus was born.

Not last Wednesday, but recently (in the Texas church shooting) one of these shooters fired upon and killed crying babies at point blank range. This is not human! This is the work of an angel — the worst of all angels, the devil.

Ash Wednesday this year brought us face to face with the devil, with pure evil, just as Jesus Christ was brought face to face with the devil when the Holy Spirit drove him there. And what is striking when it comes to a situation such as this, is that it’s become apparent that no longer does the devil have to tempt us under the appearance of some good.

World has become desensitized to death, evil

In the past, the devil knew that men and women would likely not be willing openly to choose evil. But now the devil no longer has to hide himself under the appearance of good. And that is scary.

It means that our world has become so desensitized to death and to evil, that he can just show himself, in all of his horrifying ugliness, as the lover of death. Remember, as it says so well in the Old Testament, “God did not make death (Wis 1:13)!”

That came from us, working with the devil, cooperating with evil. And nothing causes the devil more joy than death of the innocent. Nothing causes him more joy than taking away the future of wonderful young people. He truly is nasty.

Fight to defend life

And so, part of our Lenten mission is to do as much harm to his reputation as we can. A lot of people don’t believe any longer that the devil exists. That’s where he really has a field day. But the level of hatred in our world, the vilification of those who disagree with us, and the desensitization to violence, to killing, and to evil in our culture make clear to me that he is very much in existence and is having his way.

We must become aware, once again, of the value of human life. We must fight to protect and defend life, and we must remove from our lives the influences of desensitization. We are desensitized by violence in our movies, our television programs, and in those awful video games where young people get a feeling of power from killing and are desensitized from feeling guilty about anything. The entire point of these games is to have fun killing and to grow more powerful by doing it.

Only the devil has fun killing. It’s not human to have fun killing. These forms of media disconnect us from our humanity and desensitize us to the evil which is death.

What to do during Lent

So then the question becomes, “What can we do during Lent to confront and to conquer Satan?”

We know the three traditional activities of Lent: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Now, granted, with a certain humility, I hardly talk about fasting, because, well, I have no credibility. But, I do talk about Lent! And, believe it or not, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are very much part of my Lent.

One of the greatest things we can do to fight the devil this Lent is to get into, really seriously, forgiveness. Forgiveness drains the bitterness out of the human heart that the devil plants there. I would bet that there’s someone that every one of us needs to forgive. It might be over something big, it might be over something seemingly small, but there’s someone that we need to forgive. There’s someone, through whom our forgiving them, will uproot the bitterness and ill-will that’s in our hearts.

To present a clean heart to the Lord at the end of Lent . . . that’s what we’ve got to do. Cleanse ourselves from bitterness, turn against the devil, and by the grace of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, conquer him. No more fooling around with the devil. No more flirting with the devil. No more living from lie to lie, as though lying is no big deal (we’ve also become desensitized to lying, besides killing).

We’ve got to speak up and begin to work together to get our culture cleaned up, before it’s too late. The way we change culture is first with ourselves, and then with our families and those around us. So, I guess I can sum up my Lenten charge to you today this way: make sure the devil has one hell of a Lent.

Praised be Jesus Christ!