“Yahweh … who formed you in the womb”

(Isaiah 44.2)

The story goes that one day the devil got bored stiff of being the devil
and he decided to close shop!
(If only this was true, I may add!!!)
Anyway, he put all his tools neatly on the counter so that he would sell them more easily.
Anger, lust, envy, avarice, laziness, gluttony, pride… all of them
Amazingly, however, the most expensive tool was none of the above
but just a tiny, minuscule device
apparently well used because it was worn out.

His simple answer to all queries was :
“That is the most potent tool that I have.
When I don’t manage to enter with the other tools,
arrogance, resentment, sex, jealousy, sloth…
I always find a gap where I can insert this tool.
And once I am in, then victory is assured.
That is why its price is so high!”

“So what is this precious tool of yours, o crafty devil?”
“This is the tool of … discouragement.”

Many times we too find ourselves with our backs against the wall
and we feel like giving up on everything.
We feel demoralized.
Things go wrong,
work that we have invested so much energy in just evaporates,
people disappoint us,
our sins seem to increase rather than decrease.

The devil comes in, finds an opening in our edifice
and starts putting a damper on our morale:
it’s no use!
send everyone and everything packing!
He persists insistently… ‘it is all useless’.

HOWEVER we have a friend who is more powerful than our enemy.
Jesus Christ quickly sends his Spirit
to defend us.

Basically He reminds us of two basic truths…
He hands over to us two decisive gadgets.

First of all, He reminds us that God is in charge of our life.
He is making our history and
He does not make mistakes.
He is even able to turn our sins and frustrations in our favour.
Our disappointments are God’s appointments.

Paul ended up in jail.
He must have thought that this was a real serious setback
because out of prison he could convert so many people!
Yet it was during those two years that he wrote his most beautiful letters,
like the Letter to the Ephesians,
that still nurture us so substantially.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit kindly reminds us also
that folks have been and will always remain folks
- mere and plain human beings.
This is the second defensive tool against setbacks.

In the Gospel of John we find this simple observation
“Jesus Christ knew what there is in the heart of man.”
So he did not expect a lot from them.
He knew that humans arrive to a certain point and then they give in.
He was not taken aback when his disciples left him,
when one of his close friends denied him,
when all his friends abandoned him
just when he needed them most.

Jesus Christ worked with people and loved them to the highest degree
but he did not lean on them
nor did he expect much from them.
He kept looking ahead
even when the cross was in sight,
He kept on walking.

And even we can move on.
Because the resurrection exists for us too.

Job spoke next. He said:
‘Indeed, I know it is as you say:
how could anyone claim to be upright before God?
Anyone trying to argue matters with him,
could not give him one answer in a thousand.
Among the wisest and the hardiest,
who then can successfully defy him?
He moves the mountains, though they do not know it;
he throws them down when he is angry.
If he passes me, I do not see him;
he slips by, imperceptible to me.
If he snatches his prey, who is going to stop him?
or dare to ask, ‘What are you doing?’
(Job 9, 1-5. 11-12)

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.