Did you notice how the Scripture readings for the 1st Sunday of Lent emphasized the temptations of Jesus by Satan? These temptations should help us to understand that there is indeed spiritual warfare taking place for our immortal souls. Jesus was not the only one directly involved in this battle. Everyone who earnestly desires holiness of life and makes a commitment to follow Jesus will, at one time or another, experience some type of temptation and be urged to sin. Why?
We need to understand and to believe that the devil is very real--a fallen angel. We must also realize that he and the other fallen angels (demons) hate humanity and desire our ultimate destruction, person by person. In God's permissive will, we are allowed to be tempted by them, presumably to strengthen and perfect our resolve to follow Jesus and His commands. Similar to an athlete who never realizes his/her full potential until he/she engages in rigorous competition, a Christian who never has to defend or struggle with faith may never grow strong in it and may collapse under tribulation, pressure, ridicule, etc. Mysteriously, God allows Satan or one of the other demons to tempt us.
In our human weakness, we are unfortunately inclined to sin because of the effects of original sin (concupiscence). We do not see spiritual matters clearly, settle for immediate gratification rather than seek eternal happiness, and even retain a certain pride, erroneously thinking that we know more than or are somehow better than God. We suffer from an often debilitating spiritual weakness of will. Satan can then readily seduce us as he successfully seduced Adam and Eve and as he also attempted, unsuccessfully, to do so with Jesus.
Pursue the spiritual life long enough and you will find that times with a great possibility for holiness will also potentially be times of great spiritual tribulation and temptation. Ever have a nasty fight with your spouse right before some important family event? Ever want to kill your kids (figuratively, of course) at a time when there is something holy or spiritual going on? Ever have a wicked temptation of impurity during Mass or a time of prayer? Ever been tempted to pornography when alone or to stray from the marriage vows when away from home on business? When these or similar temptations continue to happen like clockwork, you might begin to wonder if something demonic might be at work. Trust me, there are evil, spiritual forces always at work.
The gateway to allowing evil into our lives can be subtle or not so subtle. Most especially, stay away from the occult, from witchcraft and "new-age" religions or spirituality, from pornography, from the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and from sexual promiscuity in any form. These and similar matters can all be openings which permit Satan to wreak havoc in our lives. Moreover, with a lifestyle that neglects prayer and the worship that is due to God (going to Mass each week), that becomes too materialistic or worldly, or where one lives as if God does not exist or does not have any real effect/relationship to our lives or actions, Satan can use such circumstances gradually to infiltrate and destroy us as well.
I see the current attack on traditional marriage, on the sacred priesthood and on various longstanding Church teachings just more tactics used by Satan to annihilate the Catholic Church. He is going to keep trying (unsuccessfully) until the end of time when Jesus Christ will ultimately be victorious accompanied by those who persevere with Him. Don't give up. Stay faithful to Christ and to the Church He established.
But be prepared continually to do battle!
Fr. Ed Namiotka