In the book of Job we read, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, faultless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil? He holds fast to his innocence and although you incited me against him to ruin him without cause.’ And Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has will he give for his life. But now put forth your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and surely he will blaspheme you to your face’,” (Job 2:3-5).
We know the trials and tribulation contained within the pages of the book of the Job. The Lord ordained that His good and faithful servant, endure diabolical vexation; He tested his love and fidelity. After Job’s longsuffering the Lord restored him and his household a hundredfold.
The words that Satan spoke to the Lord, “…surely he will blaspheme you to your face” represent a consistent goal of the Tempter—to cause us to blaspheme the Lord.
Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those “who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called.” The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God’s name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin (CCC 2148).
The Tempter tries to incite us to reject God and His will for our life; to become angry with God; to blame the Lord for all that is wrong, tempting us to negativity, indifference and then blasphemy in thought and deed. Such temptations vary from subtle to strong. Like Job, the saints model how to resist the Tempter.
In her spiritual diary, St. Faustina records Satan’s temptations, how she responded and what Christ taught her.
When I went, in my thoughts, to the chapel, my spirit was plunged into even greater darkness. Total discouragement came over me. Then I heard Satan’s voice: “See how contradictory everything is that Jesus gives to you: He tells you to found a convent, and the He gives you sickness. He tells you to set about establishing this Feast of Mercy while the whole world does not at all want such a feast. Why do you pray for this feast? It is so inopportune.” My soul remained silent and, by an act of the will, continued to pray without entering into conversation with the Spirit of Darkness. Nevertheless, such an extraordinary disgust with life came over me that I had to make a great act of the will to consent to go on living…(1497). (St. Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 2014)
And again, I heard the tempter’s words: “Ask for death for yourself tomorrow after Holy Communion. God will hear you, for He has heard you so many times before and has given you that which you asked of Him.” (1497)
Here Satan tempts a saint against God’s will and entices her to ask God to end her life at the precise moment of Holy Communion, which is the Eucharistic bond of the love life between Creator and creature. Satan abhors the moment of Holy Communion and seeks to corrupt it with the desire for death instead of life. The Tempter knows this humble nun is a threat to his kingdom of darkness. Like Job, Faustina must engage with an act of her will to overcome such temptations.
The tempter went on: “Why should you bother about other souls? You ought to be praying only for yourself. As for sinners, they will be converted without your prayers. I see that you are suffering very much at this moment. I’m going to give you a piece of advice on which your happiness will depend: Never speak about God’s mercy and, in particular, do not encourage sinners to trust in God’s mercy, because they deserve a just punishment. Another very important thing: Do not tell your confessors, and especially this extraordinary confessor and the priest in Vilnius, about what goes on in your soul. I know them: I know who they are, and so I want you on guard against them. You see, to live as a good nun, it is sufficient to live like all the others. Why expose yourself to so many difficulties?” (1497)
Now Satan tempts a saint to cease praying for others and to pray only for herself. Intercessory prayer for others is so important that Satan is tempting Faustina to cease this type of prayer. Then Satan emphasizes her suffering and taunts her to happiness that he says depends upon “never speaking about God’s mercy”. He tempts her against the will of God and her mission. In particular Satan exhorts her to cease encouraging sinners to trust in God’s mercy and he emphasizes justice and punishment.
Finally, the last temptation recorded in this diary entry is one against honesty with her confessor and against the priest in Vilnius. Satan sows seeds of doubt and tries to intimidate her, “I know them.” Satan abhors priests, confessors, and our confession of sins. The sacrament of Reconciliation saves countless souls from perdition and heals our spiritual sicknesses.
In response to the above temptations, St. Faustina “remained silent, and by an act of will I dwelt in God, although a moan escaped from my heart. Finally, the tempter went away and I, exhausted, fell asleep immediately.” (1498) The next morning, after she received Holy Communion, she renewed her act of submission to God’s will, “Jesus, I ask You, give me the strength for battle. Let it be done to me according to Your most holy will.”
Variations of the temptations of Job and of the saints such as Faustina are unleashed upon us also. The ancient serpent of the Garden of Eden who enticed Adam and Eve still roams the earth seeking the ruin of souls. In the desert, during the threefold temptation of Jesus Christ, He modeled how to conquer the wiles of the Tempter (cf. Luke 1:1-13). We are called to imitate Christ’s wisdom, fidelity, virtue and faithfulness to the Father’s will for our life’s vocation. We do so for the sake of the greatest love, eternal beatitude.
After St. Faustina resisted the tempter and recommitted her will to God’s will, the Lord said:
Satan gained nothing by tempting you, because you did not enter into the conversation with him. Continue to act in this way. You gave Me great glory today by fighting so faithfully. Let it be confirmed and engraved on your heart that I am always with you, even if you don’t feel My presence at the time of the battle. (1409)
Recently a priest advanced in age who has been my spiritual father underwent open-heart surgery. Twice he nearly died during the first weeks after surgery. Father asked for prayers because he experienced temptations such as, “Your God is all about suffering. Suffer, suffer, suffer priest! That’s all God wills for you. You are alone and God has rejected you and you will suffer unto death and be mine.” Father made many acts of faith and fought valiantly against the Tempter. Then he somehow experienced the truth of divine mercy saying, “It’s all real!”
That God allows the Tempter to try us is a mystery not to be solved but to be believed. Before Job’s restoration he said to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 1-6).
As one who, for the past fifteen years, has witnessed much deliverance from evil during major and minor exorcisms, the manifestations of the evil one are not nearly as impressive as are the manifestations of God’s mercy working in and through the priest and church.
Take heart when the Tempter assails you because you are not alone, Jesus defends you, choirs of good angels and the communion of saints engage on your behalf, and as a member of the Church, her goods are your spiritual armor.
If like Job, you suffer loss in the fray with the evil one, trust that the Lord will restore you in unimaginable good. He is preoccupied with your eternal salvation and His mercy is your covering and protection. Repay His mercy with your loving trust.
Editor’s note: For approved spiritual warfare prayers please visit www.foundationforpriests.org, under the spiritual warfare section. See also Kathleen Beckman’s God’s Healing Mercy: Finding Your Path to Forgiveness, Peace, and Joy, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.