Yesterday’s Gospel had me remembering the children’s missal I had back in about 2nd grade (perhaps even earlier). Of course, as any book written for that age group, it had illustrations. The one picture I remember from it was the one from the First Sunday of Lent. It showed Jesus with “the Devil”. My recollection of the devil in this illustration is that he was a strange extraterrestrial-looking creature, bright green with horns and bright red eyes and red cape, holding a pitchfork. (I’d love it if I actually still had the missal and could check to see if I’m recalling accurately…)
I also recall thinking it would be really scary to be around this creature and that I had better make sure I didn’t end up in Hell.
As an adult, it’s clear to me that the evil spirit doesn’t tend to take the form of a hideous creature, but often comes masquerading as peace and light. It wouldn’t be hard to resist evil if it looked like that prayer book. The problem is that it is all too easy to convince myself that something I want is of God, or even that something difficult is of God, when in reality, it may be the evil spirit working to make me either complacent or full of self-doubt. Neither of these two extremes seem to be the optimal place for growth in the spiritual life.
When dealing with people with whom I may disagree, it is all too tempting to come to the conclusion that there is one right way to look at an issue, and that anyone who sees it differently from me is just plain wrong. I don’t often take this stance myself, and when in conversation with another, I often say, “I see it differently,” rather than saying that I’m right and they are wrong.
So this leads me to how to deal with people who do see things in terms of black-and-white. Is it really “dialogue” to continue a conversation with another who is not willing to budge from a position, who cannot even for the sake of better understanding try to see the issue from the differing perspective of another? Yet, if we retreat into our separate corners, it then becomes even easier to demonize each other, and the cycle deepens. What will it take to break that cycle?