Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry afterward. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”Matthew 4:1-11
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth.’”
Then the devil took him into the holy city. He set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and,
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you don’t dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not test the Lord, your God.’”
Again, the devil took him to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to him, “I will give you all of these things, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and served him.
When considering the subject of spirits, it is impossible to ignore the Prince of Darkness – called Lucifer or Satan. Not to worship him, however, but to warn against Him and His malicious actions. St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians: For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12).
Satan’s greatest victory would be to dormant our vigilance and put the fact of his real existence between fairy tales told to naughty children. Pope Paul VI pointed this out, saying that the danger of Satan’s attack lies in the fact that he does not want to reveal his actions and tries to hush his existence, and make faith in his existence ridicule.
The Church’s teaching regarding the existence of Satan refers to the Holy Scriptures, which say that human life is threatened by wise and free beings who try to trick him into sin. It will occur only when someone voluntarily gives in to temptation. The influence of Satan cannot deprive human being of salvation. Satan can only work through temptation.
So how do you distinguish Satan’s promptings from the voice of a good angel? In other words – how to discern spirits?
Everyone should always be a listening student. We must learn how to listen to God. Peace of heart is essential. If someone is full of internal disorder and external pursuit of material goods, he or she will not hear the inner voice of conscience, but only the encouragement of the evil spirit to follow the greed, abuse and internal anxiety. God speaks to us through the Word that we accept by listening or reading. He speaks to our heart in Holy Communion, in silent reflection and meditation. God speaks to us through His angels. He does not shout, but, like with the prophet Elijah, He speaks in a light breeze. That’s why we hear his voice inside, not outside. We can hear a good angel if we are calm and able to receive an inner voice. Experience teaches us how to distinguish the voice of Satan from the voice of a good angel. A good spirit always points to God, His Word and His Commandments. It reminds us of the promises we have made to him.
The evil one does the opposite. He shows great concern for our self, cares for our desires, comforts, for our benefits that we can achieve, influences that we can gain or lose. He changes the perception of what is false, to what is true. The goodness is called evil and the evil is called good. He is persistently trying to be listen to. In our daily examination of conscience, we should ask which spirit we have listened to. Good or bad? How will we know it? The Gospel will answer us: You will know by the fruits (cf. Mt 7:16). What we do with the prompting of an evil spirit can sometimes appear at the beginning as something good. However, at the end, the fruit of this action is not good. The effect is evil. This must be anticipated when analyzing the whole situation. Inspirations of a good spirit from beginning to end brings goodness. The effect, like its cause, is good.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose spirituality was also used by Bl. Bronisław Markiewicz wrote in his exercises: Man was created to worship God, our Lord, to show Him honor and serve Him, and thus save his soul. Other things on the surface of the earth were created for man and to help him in achieving the purpose for which he was created (Spiritual Exercises, 23). This is the foundation of Christian life.
Let us ask God that we would be able to listen to the inspirations of good spirits and let them help us to use the goods of this world in freedom, to worship, show honor and serve the Triune God, following the example of Saint Michael the Archangel.
Fr. Rafał Kamiński CSMA