(The Temptation of Jesus—James Tissot)
Very few people set out with the intention of “Hey! I’m going to be an evil bastard!” But many people who start out with the intention of being good do wind up with the end result of having done evil.
Consider that statement. I bet a lot of us immediately thought of other people as falling under this category. I also bet that very few thought of ourselves. That means we’re either a bunch of saints (in which case, consider 1 Corinthians 10:12), or we’re blind to our failings. Personally I think the second option best describes our lives.
The fact is, the devil is out to ruin every one of us individually, and every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. The intention of the devil is to play on our weaknesses—our passions, our opinions, and so on. Unfortunately, we tend to be blind to this. We expect the devil to come with a direct attack against what we find important. A lot of our apocalyptic religious fiction tends to work that way. If you look at the Left Behind series or the Michael O’Brien novel Father Elijah, we see an antichrist who is a political liberal. He gives people what they want in terms of libertine debauchery and undermines the Church by turning people away from it. And this is happening today. We see this, and we make our decision to be faithful—praying to God that we be given the grace to stand in the face of persecution or seduction.
But what we don’t consider is that the devil wants our damnation as well. It doesn’t please him to destroy our body if our soul is brought to God. Some have apostatized in the past in the face of persecution, but others have stood firm with the grace of God supporting them. Some have been seduced into accepting libertine behavior, but others have not—through the grace of God. Are we to think that the devil will only succeed in trapping the political left and the weak minded, and as long as we’re politically “conservative” we’ll be safe?
I think we would be foolish to think so. The devil has other tactics besides the use of brute force. One of them is to deceive people into thinking that they are in the right while others who disagree are wrong—even if that disagreement comes from the magisterium of the Church. When one refuses to consider the possibility of being wrong, how can they repent and turn back to God? If one refuses to consider that the Church teaching is right when it goes against the individual’s own preferences,are no longer giving the religious assent that even the ordinary magisterium requires (See CCC #892).
But the whole point of metanoia is turning away from sin and towards God again. It requires being sorry for the wrong we have done. In metanoia we have the change of perspective in our lives. We realize that what we have been doing is not compatible with what God calls us to be and we want to change to be what God calls us to be. We can’t do it without His grace, but if we refuse to consider the possibility of our doing wrong, we won’t be open to seeking that grace.
This is how people are corrupted. They deceive themselves into thinking they are good Catholics even when they are refusing to obey the successors to the Apostles—whom they deceive themselves into thinking are bad Catholics. This is not something limited to one theological outlook. The rebellion of the liberals in the 1960s forward is being taken up by conservative dissent today…the arguments used to defy the Church over Humanae Vitae in 1968 is being used to defy Pope Francis here and now.
This is the corruption of the best intentions—to be faithful to God and the Church, and in corrupting such people, they become the worst. We need to pray that God open our eyes so we might see where we fall, so we might turn back to Him. Let us not be so sure that we are right that we ignore the flaws that might lead to our fall...