Pope Francis encouraged Christians Wednesday to be vigilant against spiritual pride and the temptations of “well-mannered demons.”
“Many times we are given many graces and in the end we are not capable of persevering in this grace and we lose everything for a lack of vigilance. We don’t guard the doors [of our hearts],” he said Dec. 14 during his weekly public audience.
The pope addressed the public in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall as he continued his weekly talks on the theme of discernment.
Without vigilance, he said, there is a risk that one’s progress in the spiritual life and discernment will be lost.
“It is a danger not of a psychological, but of a spiritual order, a real snare of the evil spirit,” Francis said. “Indeed, he awaits precisely the moment in which we are too sure of ourselves, this is the danger: ‘I am sure of myself, I have won, now I am well’ is that moment that the evil spirit waits for, when everything is going well, when things are going ‘swimmingly’ and we ‘have the wind in our sails.’”
The pope explained that when we let our spiritual guard down, the devil, who knows how to dress himself up to look nice, can enter our hearts.
To illustrate this point, Francis recalled one of Jesus’ parables, as told in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus said: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.”
“This,” the pope said, “is the frame of mind of the Christians who await the final coming of the Lord; but it can also be understood as the normal attitude to have in the conduct of life, so that our good choices, taken at times after challenging discernment, may proceed in a persevering and consistent manner, and bear fruit.”
Building on the metaphor of the house, Pope Francis described a clean and tidy abode with everything prepared, but the master is missing, because he is either not home, is distracted, or has fallen asleep, and evil is able to enter.
“He is not vigilant, he is not alert, because he is too sure of himself and has lost the humility to safeguard his own heart,” the pope said. “We must always safeguard our home and our heart.”
Francis explained that perhaps the master of the house had received many compliments on his beautiful and elegant home.
Perhaps too enamored with his property, “that is, with himself,” he added, “he stopped waiting for the Lord, waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom; perhaps for fear of ruining that order he no longer welcomed anyone, he did not invite the poor, the homeless, those who disturb.”
This is when bad pride is involved, or the presumption of being right or good, he continued. “When we trust too much in ourselves and not in God’s grace, then the Evil One finds the door open.”
Pope Francis said that this is when, as Jesus says in Matthew 12:45, “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
Part of the problem is that the master of the house does not even notice this takeover is happening, the pope said: “the well-mannered demons” can enter without you noticing. “They knock on the door, they are polite ... and then eventually they command in your soul.”