When I was very young I remember quite vividly the imagery used by my lola in teaching me the perennial struggle for dominance between the forces of good and evil. Like all good Catholic catechists, she showed me in very vivid detail, before color television was even born, the struggle between the angels and the devils behind me. Yes, she believed, they were always there, locking their arms most of the time in mortal combat, struggling for control and dominance. I was pulled from one side to the other. Sometimes the angels won and most of the time the devil had a field day. Sometimes in a desperate attempt to make me a good boy my lola would tell me that my angels are grieving because of what I have done and would repeatedly do. In a surge of compassion I tried to be good for a day. I really pitied my angels then.
During December, the battle arena of life for a little boy changes for a moment. It was no longer between angels or devils. It was between Santa or no Santa, between gifts or no gifts. Now that was a good incentive then, but despite the constant reminder there was always the occasional bad behavior. Despite these setbacks however, I always won out in the end. It was in those days that I realized that Santa or somebody up there planning his gift distribution spree must be so compassionate, for despite some bad behavior I ended having a full sock of goodies on Christmas morning.
When I shed off my love for cartoons in high school, they changed the battle field of good and evil between conscience and my desires. Still later, in philosophy, when I was studying Freud and the rest of the gang, they changed the characters to somebody they named “superego.” To mess things up as if my fight to free myself from parental control was not enough, they placed somebody inside me called the “inner parent” who became the voice of morality.
Through all the years, the characters in the battle field of life changed, but the struggle remains the same. And I don’t see any end in sight, not until life is over. The struggle between good and evil inside us is raging and it is a struggle for mastery, for dominance, for control not just for the present but also for our destiny.
Jesus has another way of saying it when He said, “you cannot serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The first commandment aids us in this struggle. It gives us an age old technique. “You shall not have false gods before me.” It consist in making God the center of our lives. To make Him our highest good, to make Him so important in our lives. To win over evil, we must permit this commandment to take root in our hearts, to permit God to affect our being and all our actions, and to permit Him to influence all our plans. We are invited to become like a little child who becomes so immersed with his parents, permitting himself to be affected, controlled and directed by them. God is a wonderful parent and like a child we believe that no harm could ever touch us, no evil would ever influence us, once our parent-God is there. And He is always there. We just have to permit him to be God, to be master and Lord of our lives.