The Great Accuser

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We first meet the “great accuser” in Genesis 3, in the Garden of Eden. It is there that the serpent engages Eve in  conversation. He asks her a question about God and begins to plant doubts in her mind. Eve falls into the serpent’s trap, as would we, and when she restates God’s command with additions, the conversation continues with Satan accusing God:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5 NRSV).

We see the “great accuser” again in the book of Job, in the first chapter, and there Satan presents himself before God along with the other heavenly beings. Job becomes the subject of conversation and evidently he had become a source of irritation for the evil one who accuses Job of being faithful to God only because of God’s many blessings. Thereupon the conversation takes a fateful twist. Satan is given the power to afflict Job, but not take his life, in order to prove his allegiance to God. That’s a conversation we hope doesn’t ever take place with our name inserted! The story ends with Satan disproved and Job faithful to God and all things he lost and more restored to him, but the “great accuser” doesn’t hang up the tools of his trade.

We see him again in the early chapters of the synoptic Gospels after the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism. During a period of 40 days and nights, during which time Jesus fasted, Satan plies his trade attempting to defeat his greatest target to date. We know of three of the temptations or category of temptations, matching the same tactics that the devil uses on each of us. Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread (desire of the flesh), to jump off the pinnacle of the temple into the rescuing arms of the angels (desire of the eyes), and to bow down and worship Satan and be given all the kingdoms of the world (the pride in riches). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NRSV).

The “great accuser” is referred to again in the book of Revelation. There we read the words of the apostle John:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
    and the kingdom of our God
    and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,

who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
    love for life did not deter them from death. (Revelation 12:10-11 NABRE)

What we see in every one of these situations where the “great accuser” is at work, he is falsely accusing: God, Job, Jesus, and our brothers whose holy reputation is being dragged into the mud by Satan. How do these brothers in Revelation overcome the accuser? By the blood of the Lamb–their sins were covered by His blood–and by the word of their testimony–they lived a life beyond reproach–and the accuser’s accusations could not stick.

Yesterday Pope Francis made this statement in his homily at Mass: “It seems that the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible, in order to scandalize the people.”

We want to give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt, but honestly his comment confuses. Our sins are not uncovered by the Great Accuser, but by the Holy Spirit. And when [the Spirit] comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” (John 16:8-11 NRSV). We can trust the Holy Spirit to poke and prod at our lives, convicting us of sin. And if we do not respond, for our good and the good of his holy Church, he will bring to light the things that have been hidden in the darkness (1 Corinthians 4:5).

We are living in challenging times! Don’t let the work that the Holy Spirit is doing scandalize you. Satan and the scandals he has authored are being exposed. The deceiver wants to pull the wool back over our eyes.  Pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I heard someone respond to the statement that our Blessed Mother must be weeping over the Church. His answer was: “No, Mary is not weeping, she is sweeping!”

Lord, cleanse your Church and begin with me! Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

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The Great Accuser

Equal Opportunity Seducer

One thing this summer has proven to me is that Satan is an equal-opportunity seducer to sin. A high profile, high-ranking churchman among U.S. Catholics has fallen in disgrace when his sexual peccadilloes were revealed, but not before much harm was done to the Church and her members. And then a very prominent evangelical pastor retired earlier this year and is now under scrutiny for things he allegedly did over the course of his long tenure as pastor of one of the best known churches in America.

We shake our heads in bewilderment, but deep down inside we understand the fragility of the sons of Adam’s race and the propensity to sin, especially if power and influence is attached to one’s station in the church and outside of it. Our merciful Lord took a very strong position on this matter: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NRSV).

We make a grave error if we restrict our Lord’s admonition only to “little children” referring to their biological age. Anyone entrusted with spiritual oversight who abuses their position of leadership, authority and shepherding to do harm to another, physically, emotionally, sexually or theologically, Jesus has very harsh words and judgment for that person.

I shudder with the implications. I am currently a layman in the Catholic Church, but I spent 30-plus years as a pastor and missionary in the evangelical church. The opportunities for taking advantage of another in any of the ways listed above are always on Satan’s menu. What can we do to bring accountability and holiness to the church?

I am currently reading The Church: Mystery, Sacrament, Community, part four of Pope St. John Paul II’s Wednesday audiences on the Catechism. In his first presentation I came across these words:

“…we also profess that the Church of Christ is apostolic, that is, built upon the apostles, from whom she received the divine truth revealed by and in Christ. The Church is apostolic because she preserves the apostolic tradition and guards it as her sacred deposit.

“The authoritative guardians appointed to preserve this deposit are the successors of the apostles, assisted by the Holy Spirit. But without a doubt, all believers, in union with their legitimate pastors, and thus, the whole Church, share in the Church’s apostolicity. That is, they share in her bond with the apostles and, through them, with Christ. For this reason the Church cannot be merely reduced to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The latter is, without a doubt, its institutional foundation. But all the members of the Church–pastors and faithful–belong to her and are called to play an active role in the one People of God, who receive from him the gift of being bound to the apostles and to Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis mine)

You and I have a responsibility to assure that the Church is presented to Christ “without spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind.” We are called to pray, to fast, to be faithful in our own lives, and to pray especially for our pastors and bishops and not turn a blind eye in those occasions that the leadership of the Church and the people in the pews are indistinguishable from the corrupt world in which we find ourselves.

Jesus takes this very seriously and so should we!

Equal Opportunity Seducer