How Do We Explain Evil?

“Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the twelve, and he went to the chief priests and the temple guards to discuss a plan for handing [Jesus] over to them.” (Luke 22:3-4)

In all four Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus announces that one of the disciples will betray him.  Luke specifically says that Satan entered Judas and then he conspired with the chief priests to arrange for Jesus’ arrest.

As one of the disciples, Judas would have traveled with Jesus, listened to his teachings, and seen him perform numerous miracles. What caused him to want to betray Jesus?  Was he a loyal disciple one moment and then suddenly a betrayer?  What caused Satan to enter him?  The Gospel of John suggests that he was a thief and, as keeper of the money, regularly helped himself to it. (John 12:6)

Both Satan and evil are real.  They are spiritual realities just like the Holy Spirit.  While we may not be able to see Satan physically, we can see the effects of his presence, just as we can with the Holy Spirit.  St. Paul describes the contrast.  With Satan and evil, he says we see “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”  With the Holy Spirit we see “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:19-23)

What makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attack?  Peter says, “Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8)    Like all predators, Satan attacks our weaknesses, bad habits and self-indulgences, inclining us to serve first ourselves instead of others.  We relate to St. Paul’s statement, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Rom. 7:19)  Satan’s goal is to separate us from God whom he hates.

The antidote to Satan and the putrid fruit he dispenses is accepting Jesus’ offer to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit and embracing his example of death to self – the cross.  This is impossible for us without God’s presence and grace.  But as Jesus says, “With God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)  Many years ago, I met Jesus one evening and asked him to take the present sin and disorder in my life…and he did!  I accepted his offer to dwell in me.  It was truly a life-changing moment.

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:7)  Sin begets more sin.  Grace begets more grace.

Do you recognize Satan’s efforts to pull you away from God?  What are they?

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