THE EXISTENCE OF ANGELS AND DEVILS
THERE IS an interesting phenomenon today concerning the existence of angels and devils. On the one hand, some people deny the existence of any spiritual reality. They claim that belief in devils and angels is simply superstition. Even some Christians who certainly believe in God’s existence question the existence of these spiritual beings; they explain scriptural references to them as examples of symbolic language. On the other hand, hardly a year goes by without filmmakers exploiting the theme of demon possession and the conflict between the spiritual forces of good and evil.
Catholics do indeed believe in the existence of angels and devils. Both scripture and tradition attest to this belief.
Angels are created, spiritual beings. Like us, they are free, knowing, loving beings created by God for union with Himself. Unlike us, angels are pure spirits; they do not have bodies.
The word angel means “one who is sent” or “messenger.” This tells us something about the angels’ function in relation to us. Both the Old and New Testaments have many examples of God sending His angels.
The Church has instructed Catholics to honor the angels who are our spiritual friends and guardians. The Church has traditionally taught that each person has a guardian angel.
We believe that when the angels were created they were given a basic choice, similar to our choice here on earth, to accept God or reject Him. Those who chose themselves over God – thereby choosing to be alienated from Him in hell – are called demons or devils. God permits devils to tempt us, but He does not allow them to harm us. (The Church does teach that there is such a thing as demon possession, but the Church’s ritual of exorcism warns against concluding too quickly that a demon possesses a person. Many examples of possessions have turned out to be the result of emotional disturbances or fraud.) By resisting the temptations of evil spirits we are given the opportunity to draw closer to God.
For self-reflection: Do I sincerely believe that the existence of angels is not optional to Catholic faith?
Note: The text is taken from Michael Francis Pennock, THIS IS OUR FAITH …, Notre Dame, IN 46556: Ave Maria Press, 1990 (second printing), page 266.
Jakarta, 28 September 2012
A Christian Pilgrim