Archive for the ‘Spiritual Warfare’ Category

Three Temptation Tactics — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 8, 2014

Readings: Genesis 2:1-7, Matthew 4:1-11,

1. Observe the focus of the devil’s first temptation against Jesus:

He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

The devil attacks Jesus where he perceives him to be the most vulnerable.  The tempter behaves as St. Ignatius of Loyola describes in his Rules for Discernment:

[The enemy of our souls] behaves as a chief bent on conquering and robbing what he desires: for, as a captain and chief of the army, pitching his camp, and looking at the forces or defenses of a stronghold, attacks it on the weakest side, in like manner the enemy of human nature, roaming about, looks in turn at all our virtues, theological, cardinal and moral; and where he finds us weakest and most in need for our eternal salvation, there he attacks us and aims at taking us.

Imagine your king has made you the captain in charge of your walled-city’s defenses. Having lived there your whole life and having witnessed many previous sieges against the city, you should know its vulnerabilities well. Before the next hostile siege (which will surely come) would it not be wise to petition the king to reinforce wherever the walls are weak and to send the troops he can provide, and for you yourself to be an especially vigilant watchmen at the place where the next attack is most likely to come?

So it is for us. We have a lifetime of experience to know where we are weakest. Therefore, we should pray to the Lord to provide his strengthening grace where we are weak and to send his angels to help defend us, and to be especially vigilant at where the next temptation is most likely to come.

2. Imagine if Eve had said, “What you say, Serpent, is very different from what the Lord told us. My husband and I will discuss this with him the next time he visits us.” That would have entirely derailed the serpent’s wicked plans. Again, St. Ignatius:

[The enemy of our souls] acts as a licentious lover in wanting to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.

Therefore, we should bring our secret, hidden temptations out of the festering darkness and into the disinfectant light with a spiritual person we can confide in.

3. Observe how Eve responds the serpent’s sinful suggestion:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it…

The more Eve entertained the serpent’s temptation the more inevitable her fall to sin became. Contrast this with Jesus’ unyielding responses to the devil, including:

“Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

As St. Ignatius says:

The enemy acts like [an unvirtuous] woman, in being weak against vigor and strong of will. Because, as it is the way of the woman when she is quarrelling with some man to lose heart, taking flight when the man shows her much courage: and on the contrary, if the man, losing heart, begins to fly, the wrath, revenge, and ferocity of the woman is very great, and so without bounds; in the same manner, it is the way of the enemy to weaken and lose heart, his temptations taking flight, when the person who is exercising himself in spiritual things opposes a bold front against the temptations of the enemy, doing diametrically the opposite. And on the contrary, if the person who is exercising himself commences to have fear and lose heart in suffering the temptations, there is no beast so wild on the face of the earth as the enemy of human nature in following out his damnable intention with so great malice.

Therefore, let us be firm and uncompromising against temptation from the start, giving it no opportunity grow on us. Instead, let us focus on doing that vice’s opposing virtue. In the face of such firmness, the temptation will depart.

Tempting Christ — 1st Sunday of Lent—Year C

March 3, 2013

Today’s Gospel from Luke is preceded by Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. There, Jesus is revealed to be the Anointed One awaited by God’s people. The Anointed One is called the Messiah in Hebrew and the Christ in Greek. It was foretold that the “Anointed One” would have God as his Father in a unique and intimate way. This “Anointed One” was prophesied to come and be the savior, the champion, and the liberator of God’s people.

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days…” Here, before the start of the public ministry of Jesus, in the silence and solitude of this desert retreat, the thoughts and prayers of Jesus were probably about his mission ahead. At this time the devil comes to tempt him. The devil wants to influence the kind of Christ that Jesus will be in hopes of derailing his mission from the start.

The devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answers, “One does not live on bread alone.” What would be the evil in Jesus making this food? If he uses his power to meet his own needs, then the devil will ask “How can you refuse the needs of other people?” The devil wants Jesus to become an economic savior, a materialistic Messiah.

Jesus has compassion for our human condition–he knows it from his own first-hand experience. Jesus commands us to show his love to others by caring for their bodily needs. And when we do this it is Jesus acting through us. But if Jesus’ first mission had become to satisfy all material human needs, then Jesus would have been a Christ of bread alone, and we cannot live forever on bread alone. Making all of us wealthy wouldn’t be enough to make us holy, and so Jesus refuses the first temptation.

Then the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “I shall give to you all the power and glory…. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” And Jesus answers, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” The devil offers Jesus an alternative to a life of obedience to his Father and in service to all. Jesus can become the world’s dictator whose own will must be done, if he would simply worship the devil.

This is the devil’s promise, but the devil is a liar. Making a deal with him gains nothing but loss, yet even if Jesus knew the devil would keep his word Jesus would have none of this. Jesus does not come to control us, but to invite us. He does not want to dominate us, but to persuade us to love. God seeks our loving response, and a response in love cannot be forced, so Jesus rejects the second temptation.

Then the devil takes Jesus to a high place and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for God will command his angels to guard you, and with their hands they will support you….” And Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Here the devil argues that Jesus should expect to be protected from suffering and be preserved from death. But Jesus was sent and came to die and rise for us. Without these things how would we have been saved? Jesus trusted the Father’s will, even in suffering and death, and so Jesus refuses the third temptation.

God often works in ways that we wouldn’t imagine or choose for ourselves. We would wish that everything in life would be easy and painless. We wish our temptations and sorrows did not afflict us. But a doctor’s cure is given according to the disease he finds. After the Fall of mankind, God intends to save us through the difficulties and struggles of this life.

Our growth in holiness can be slow and our sufferings may be difficult. However, we should never despair. Our struggle has rewards and our suffering has purpose. We know this because of Jesus, who endured temptations just like us and for us.

El evangelio de hoy es precedido por el bautismo de Jesús en el Jordán. Allí, Jesús se revela como el Ungido esperado por el pueblo de Dios. El ungido es llamado el Mesías en hebreo y Cristo en griego. Fue predicho que “el ungido” sería tener a Dios como su Padre de una manera única e íntima. Este “Ungido” fue profetizado ser el salvador, el campeón, y el libertador del pueblo de Dios.

“Llenos del Espíritu Santo, Jesús volvió del Jordán y fue llevado por el Espíritu al desierto por cuarenta días…” Aquí antes del inicio del ministerio público de Jesús, en el silencio y la soledad de este retiro desierto, los pensamientos y las oraciones de Jesús fueron probablemente sobre su misión por delante. Entonces, el diablo viene a tentarle. El diablo quiere influir en el tipo de Cristo que Jesús va a ser, con la esperanza de desbaratar su misión desde el principio.

El diablo dice: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, di a esta piedra que se convierta en pan”. Y Jesús responde: “El hombre no vive solamente de pan”. ¿Cuál sería el mal en la fabricación de este alimento? Si Jesús usa su poder para satisfacer sus propias necesidades, entonces el diablo le preguntará “¿Cómo puedes negar las necesidades de otras personas?” El diablo quiere Jesús para convertirse en un salvador económico, un Mesías materialista.

Jesús tiene compasión por la condición humana y él lo sabe por su propia experiencia. Jesús nos manda a mostrar su amor a los demás por el cuidado de sus necesidades corporales. Y cuando hacemos esto, Jesús está actuando a través de nosotros. Pero si la primera misión de Jesús había sido la de satisfacer todas las necesidades materiales humanas, entonces Jesús habría sido un Cristo de pan solamente, y no podemos vivir para siempre en el pan solo. Haciendo todos nosotros ricos no sería suficiente para hacernos santos, y así Jesús rechaza la primera tentación.

Entonces el diablo muestra a Jesús todos los reinos del mundo y le dice: “Yo te daré todo el poder y la gloria …. Todo esto será tuyo, si me adoras. “Y Jesús responde:” Adorarás al Señor, tu Dios, ya él solo servirás “. El diablo ofrece a Jesús una alternativa a una vida de obediencia a su Padre y servicio de todos. Jesús puede convertirse en dictador del mundo, cuya propia voluntad se debe hacer.

Esta es la promesa del diablo, pero el diablo es un mentiroso. Haciendo un trato con él no gana nada sino pérdida, sin embargo, incluso si Jesús sabía que el diablo cumpliría su palabra de Jesús no quiso saber nada de esto. Jesús no viene a controlarnos, sino para invitarnos. Él no quiere que nos dominen, sino para persuadir al amor. Dios busca nuestra respuesta de amor y una respuesta en el amor no puede ser forzado, y así Jesús rechaza la tentación segundo.

Entonces el diablo lleva a Jesús a un lugar alto y le dice: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, arrójate desde aquí, porque Dios mandará a sus ángeles para que te guarden, y con sus manos te apoyan….” Y Jesús responde, “No tentarás al Señor, tu Dios.”

Aquí el diablo argumenta que Jesús debe esperar a ser protegido de el sufrimiento y ser preservado de la muerte. Pero Jesús fue enviado y vino a morir y resucitar por nosotros. Sin estas cosas, ¿cómo hemos sido salvados? Jesús confió la voluntad del Padre, incluso en el sufrimiento y la muerte, y así Jesús se niega la tercera tentación.

A menudo Dios obra de maneras que no nos imaginamos o elegir por nosotros mismos. Nos gustaría que todo en la vida iba a ser fácil y sin dolor. Queremos nuestras tentaciones y sufrimientos no nos afligen. Pero la curación de un médico se administra de acuerdo a la enfermedad que encuentra. Después de la caída del hombre, Dios quiere salvarnos a través de las dificultades y las luchas de esta vida.

Nuestro crecimiento en la santidad puede ser lento y nuestro sufrimiento puede ser difícil. Sin embargo, nunca debe desesperarse. Nuestra lucha tiene recompensas y nuestro sufrimiento tiene un propósito. Lo sabemos gracias a Jesús, que sufrió tentaciones como nosotros y por nosotros.

The Age of the Donkey — 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 4, 2011

Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” But if that is so, why do so many things in the world seem so out of hand? We see that many things are sinful, broken, and not as they should be. Zechariah foretold that the true king would proclaim establish peace among the nations. Yet, this Fourth of July weekend sees our country fighting in at least two wars abroad. If we take our faith seriously, and think seriously about our faith, we’re led to ask, “Where is the reign of Jesus and where is His promised peace?”

In our first reading, we heard Zechariah prophesy that the true king, the Messiah, the Christ, would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. You will recall, of course, how Jesus fulfilled this passage when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the people’s shouts of joy. So what is the significance of His riding in on a donkey? The significance of the donkey is that it points to the meekness of Jesus’ reign.

In the ancient world, when a general sieged and took a fortified city, he would most often ride through its city gates by means of horse power. That conqueror would either be saddled upon one of these magnificently fast and powerful animals, or else he would ride in a chariot pulled by them. Then, upon entering, one would expect him to ruthlessly establish the new order of things. Oftentimes, to secure the conqueror’s rule, new laws would be proclaimed and severely enforced, prominent enemies would be put to death, and all local resistance would be crushed.

Jesus, however, comes into Jerusalem in a different way; not on a warhorse or in a chariot, but on a slow and humble donkey. This signifies that His reign shall be different. Apart from the relatively tame activism of scattering livestock and tipping tables at the temple, Jesus introduces his reign without any sign of force. In fact, the only person who would be murdered in the course of Jesus’ rise to power… would be Jesus Himself.

When Jesus stood accused before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, when He was in chains before Pilate and his troops, do you not think that He could have called upon His Father to provide Him in an instant with more than twelve legions of angels? Jesus could have backed Himself up with the power of more than 60,000 angelic warriors, but then He would not have died, and His kingdom would have been very different.

Let me speak for a minutes about the angels. God’s angels, in the first instant of their created existence, had a clear knowledge into God’s goodness and preeminence. In that moment, some of them decided that they would rather live as their own gods. As the Book of Revelation tells us, a war broke out in heaven; St. Michael the Archangel and his angels battled against Satan. Satan and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. Satan was thrown down to earth, and his angels were thrown down with him, where they have tempted us to share in their rebellion ever since. Sometimes people ask if Satan and the demons could be someday be saved. However, angels and demons are creatures that do not change their minds. Unlike human beings, they do not change over time. We human beings are a different sort of creatures. We learn through experience and (hopefully) grow in maturity. If one of us chooses to rebel through grave sin, hope remains for us, as long as we live, that we will repent and turn again to God, to love Him and others as we ought. Even after Caiaphas and Pilate condemned Jesus and handed Him over to for execution, hope remained for their conversion and salvation.

What if Jesus had called in His angelic reinforcements, unveiling before them the Heavenly armies in their terrifying fierceness? What if Christ had tolerated no resistance to the advent of His reign, to the coming of His Kingdom, in 33 AD?        In that case, all of humanity would be confronted with a sudden and inescapable choice, a choice either for Christ or against Him; a moment of choosing like that experienced by the angels and demons.

Some human beings, when confronted with Christ in this way, would sinfully refuse to follow Him, and that refusal would be a rebellion. And here we come to the heart of the problem: How can Christ allow these rebels to remain on the earth, in hopes that they may repent, unless He is willing to show some tolerance and patience toward their sinful resistance for a time? Jesus could wipe away all sin from the face of the earth in an instant, but He would have to wipe out all of the earth’s unrepentant sinners in the process. A sudden judgment would bring a quick and clean end to sin, but less of mankind would be saved. The approach Jesus has taken with us is more merciful, but is also messier. God hopes that all shall turn to Him freely, and not by force, because love cannot be forced. Jesus Christ hopes and works for the conversion and salvation of all. As St. Peter writes, “The Lord’s patience is directed towards salvation.” And though it can be difficult for us to see God’s providential purposes and plans in our lives, “we know that,” as St. Paul says, “all things work for good for those who love God.”

Where is the peace that was promised to the world? Its total reign, the fullness of the kingdom of God, is yet to come. For now, the spirit of the world and the Spirit of life do battle. But we can experience peace in our souls, peace in our families, and peace in our communities, if we live by the Spirit of Christ.

In this age, Jesus comes to us on a donkey, but in the age to come He shall ride a warhorse. As the Book of Revelation says:

“I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called ‘Faithful and True.’ He judges and wages war in righteousness.… He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’”

In this age, Jesus rides the donkey, for this is the time of patient mercy. But on the Last Day, Jesus shall ride the white warhorse, for that is the time of decisive and definitive judgment. Let sinners take note; we shall not be permitted to keep sinning forever. And let those who mourn the brokenness, the sin, the suffering and death in the world take courage, for these things shall pass away. ‘See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he. He shall proclaim peace to the nations. And His rule shall be to the ends of the earth.’

Attacks Within — Tuesday, 1st Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

January 18, 2011

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He also created purely spiritual beings called angels to serve Him and share His friendship. Unfortunately, some of these spirits decided that they would not serve, and rejected His friendship. We call these rebels demons, and with intense hate they wage spiritual war against us on the battlefields of our hearts and minds.

Demons are pleased when we hold either of these two extreme attitudes towards them: either in denying their very existence, so that we will be completely unaware of their activity in the world, or in fixating upon them, so that we are paralyzed with false fears of their power. Demons are powerful (by nature we human being are “lower than the angels”) but we should not be terrorized. First, Jesus is greater than them all. Made “for a little while lower than the angels” the Father has crowned Jesus “with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet.” Second, as a baptized Christian, you belong to Christ, you are claimed by Him, and that gives you special protection. Demons cannot possess you like the man in the Gospels unless you invite them in. (This is why Ouija Boards, Tarot cards, seances, magic and other things occult are so dangerous.) Demons cannot control us, overriding our freewill, but they can influence our thoughts and feelings.

When I interact with you, I can influence your thoughts and feelings by what I say and how I act. If I mention elephants, you’ll think of elephants. If I smile and compliment you, you’ll feel good, and if I insult you, you’ll feel bad. But however I interact with you, you can see and hear me doing it right in front of you. The work of spirits, on the other hand, is more subtle since they operate invisibly, speaking in our thoughts and influencing our hearts. God’s good angels direct us toward what is good, but demons would lead us toward sin and harm. To be forewarned and aware of the demons’ tactics is to be forearmed and prepared to resist them.

One typical demonic tactic is to first entice and then condemn. Suppose you gave up cookies for Lent and you notice the cookie jar sitting on the counter. A demon might entice you by speaking thoughts to you like this: “… a cookie would be great right now …this sucks …I’ve been good all Lent… I’ve earned it.” Then, once you give in and have the cookie, the enemy shifts to words of condemnation: “…couldn’t even give up one cookie for God.” Whenever you fall into sin, the demons don’t want you to get back up with Christ, they want to kick you when you’re down and keep you there. Sometimes our heavenly friends will correct and challenge us, but whenever they do, they always do it in a way that makes us stronger to do what’s right.

Another demonic tactic is Always/Never, or All or Nothing Thinking. If you find yourself thinking that you’re “always” this, or “never” that, you’re probably being fed a lie; either an untruth welling-up out of your own human brokenness, or a lie coming from an external attack. If you find yourself thinking that you ‘always mess things up,’ or that you ‘don’t have any friends,’ or that you ‘never really sin,’ you’re facing a falsehood. The truth is that only in rare cases are you “always” or “never” anything. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Another tip: don’t dialogue with temptations. Whether the temptation springs from an external enemy or merely from our own desirous passions, both demons and we ourselves are cleaver enough to persuade us into sinning, if granted enough time for convincing.

So what can we do to defend against such attacks? We should pray every day and stay close to Jesus Christ through frequent reception of confession and the Eucharist. We should use holy water and holy images to sanctify the places where we dwell. We should call on our heavenly friends; Mary, St. Michael the Archangel, leader of God’s angelic armies, and all the saints. We should also remember that we are always accompanied by a Guardian Angel who God-given mission is to light, to guard, to rule, and to guide us.

Demons want us to either fixate on them or to deny that they even exist. Instead, let’s be forewarned in faith and confident in Christ about the invisible spiritual warfare fought on the battlefields of our hearts and minds.

Demonic Delay — 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

November 14, 2010

Once upon a time, an uncertain number of years ago, there was an important meeting of demons in Hell. In the midst of their fires and shadows, with a foul and terrible stink in the air, the top of Hell’s hierarchy was planning a long-term strategy for how to mislead humanity.

Why do they scheme against us? Because on the day when Jesus comes again to judge and rule the world with justice, the demons do not want us to experience His healing rays; they want us to burn with fire, like themselves. Since they cannot hurt God directly, they lash out by trying to make us share in their misery.

As they met, brainstorming for ideas, one demon suggested, “How about we try telling them that there is no such thing as evil?” The chairman said, “You stupid worm, you pathetic disgrace, the humans will never believe that! Do you think that we can pit a person against a person, a nation against a nation, or a soul against our Enemy above, without the humans noticing the sadnesses, sufferings, impurities, jealousies, envies, rivalries, resentments, hatreds, injustices, cruelties, or murders that follow? They see evidence of evil on the front page of every newspaper and in every gossip’s tale! Humans are reminded that something’s wrong with their world whenever their alarm clocks ring, whenever their toes get stubbed, or whenever someone they know dies! You’ll have to do better than that!”

A little while later, another demon suggested, “What if we told them that there is no such thing as goodness?” The chairman said, “You worthless slime, you ugly idiot, the humans will never believe that! Our Enemy above has littered their world with beauties and gifts to many to count, and everything that the humans do is in the pursuit of what they think is good! They have this irresistible desire to be happy that our Enemy has built into them! Tell me, how would we tempt them to sin without promising them something which attracts them, something which is at least seemingly good? Is there anyone here who is not a useless fool?”

But then, one of the chairman’s most cunning underlings suggested another approach, an approach which was immediately welcomed by the others with cruel smiles and restrained applause (for a demon resists praising anyone but himself.) This insightful demon said, “Let us convince the humans… that there’s no need to hurry.”

In every generation, there have been Christians who belived that their generation would be the last. But personally, I don’t expect the second coming of Jesus Christ to happen in the very near future for the simple fact that it remains legal to be a Christian throughout North and South America. There are great evils in our world, even within our own country, but the final attack of evil against Christ’s Church in the last days should be far worse than this. [For more from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on “The Church’s Ultimate Trial,” see CCC 675-677 ]

I do not expect Christ to come in the immediate future to us, but we must always be preparing ourselves to be ready to go to Him, for we never know when we will die. Never be anxious and never be afraid, but prepare yourself for what is certainly coming. Instead of being busybodies, distracted by many unimportant things, let’s get busy making the most important things the most important things.

If you knew for a fact that you were going to die six months from today how would you begin to live your life differently? Would you pray more each day? Would you go to confession and to Mass more often? Would you work harder at doing good works? Would you crush your lingering vices? Would you forgive your enemies? Would you show more love to the people in your daily life?

Seriously thinking about what you would you do different if you knew you were going to die will give you a good place to start in living more intentionally for Christ, with your eternal goal in mind. Do not believe the demon’s whispered lie that ‘there is no need to hurry,’ for your last day is closer than it was yesterday, and it may be much closer than you think.

Three Temptations — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year C

February 23, 2010

In today’s gospel Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit for forty days of prayer, penance, and preparation and there He is tempted by the devil.  We have been led to this season of Lent and we also find ourselves being tempted. This morning I would like to talk about how the devil’s three temptations present themselves to us and to let you know about an allowance in Lent that you will be happy to hear.

Most of us here have chosen to take on a penance during Lent.  You have probably resolved to abstain from something good, like cookies, candies, ice cream, TV or the internet, to grow in disciple and virtue, and to offer some sacrifice to God. The devil first said to Jesus, “command this stone to become bread,” and we will probably be tempted in a similar way; “Put down the rock of your penance for awhile and let it nourish you.” It is the way of demons to first entice and then condemn. The rationalization, “Go ahead, it’s just a little cookie,” will afterwards become the accusation, “You couldn’t even sacrifice one cookie for God.” Let us preserve in our Lenten penances, for the joy of having carried a cross for the Lord is far preferable to the discouragement of a moment’s compromise.

As a second temptation, the devil, in a vision, showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant and said, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Scripture calls Satan the Father of Lies, so we ought to be skeptical about whether he really had this authority over the nations, and even if he did we should disbelieve that he would give Jesus the world if He were to worship him. Instead, I suspect that the devil would have simply laughed and left Jesus with nothing for having fallen into sin.

We human beings are creatures of habit. The same sins which you have struggled with in the past are probably the same ones that challenge you today. When we are tempted by sins they promise us the world, great peace and satisfaction. Yet we can look back at our own experiences and see that these are lies. Our past sins show us that they only lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. We should stop swallowing the bait. We should stop accepting the lie. This Lent is a perfect time for us to commit to crushing the habitual sins in our lives, for our sins will not make us happy, even if they promise us the world.

As a third temptation, the devil took Jesus up (in a vision or in the body we do not know) to the top of the temple in Jerusalem. He said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” The temptation addressed to us sounds differently. “You are not the Son of God, you’re not even close to being saint! You should throw yourself down in shame for your sins and not dare to pray or present yourself to God!” On the contrary, as we heard in the second reading, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” Lent calls us to sorrow and conversion for our sins, not to shame and aversion from God.

We see the one-two combo of enticement and shame modeled in the case of Adam and Eve.  When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about the garden they hid themselves among the trees, for they realized that they were naked before Him, and they were ashamed and afraid. Much later, in the case of Judas Iscariot, the devil led him to betray Jesus, one of the worst sins ever, and then after regretting it he was led to kill himself. If Judas had gone from the temple to Calvary, instead of to his tragic tree, Jesus would have forgiven him, because Jesus wanted to forgive him.

Jesus loves us. He doesn’t just love us because He’s God and He “has to” love everybody. Jesus loves us and He actually likes us for all the good things that we are and for all the good things He sees we can become. This is why He created us and died for us, because He loves us. So we should not be ashamed to come to Christ in the sacraments; in confession with our big sins, or at communion with our small ones. As Jesus told St. Faustina, the greater our sins the more entitled we are to his mercy. When it comes to God’s forgiveness, only we ourselves can get in His way.

Finally, I mentioned that there is an allowance during Lent which is a cause for consolation amidst our Lenten struggles. But first, did you know that there are more than forty days in Lent?  The season is longer than forty days because we don’t count the Sundays.  There are 40 days of penance, but every Sundays (from Saturday evening to Sunday night) we are released from our penances. At Sunday Mass the priest still wears the Lenten season’s purple, we might do less singing, and we don’t say the Gloria or say the “A”-word before the gospel, but we are freed from penances that day, for every Sunday is a “little Easter. ”

In the first reading, we heard how Moses commanded the Hebrews that once they came into the Promised Land they should come before God to present their first fruits and recount the story of how God had delivered them from slavery, brought them into the Promised Land, and filled them with blessings. Each Sunday we come before God and recall how His Son, Jesus Christ, delivered us from our slavery, brought us into His kingdom, and has filled us with His blessings, especially the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Each Sunday gives us consolation, and this release from our penances encourages us to offer still more penance to God in the week ahead, for it is an easier thing abstain for just six days than to do it for forty in a row.

So in conclusion, be faithful to your penances, your faithfulness will have its reward. Commit to crushing your habitual sins, for sins cannot make us happy, even if they promise the world. Shame and fear are the devil’s traps, so whenever you sin, come to the Lord with trust and sorrow. And know that you are released from penances on Sundays in Lent.  May this gift be a cause for thanksgiving and joy and inspire us to make a still greater gift of ourselves to Christ in this Lenten season.

Advent Penance Service

December 1, 2009

 The psalm says, ‘On the holy mountain is [Jerusalem], his city, cherished by the Lord. The Lord prefers the gates of Zion to all Israel’s dwellings. Of you are told glorious things, O city of God, [Jerusalem].’  (Psalm 87) The Lord God loved Jerusalem and lived within its walls. God dwelt there in a special way in His temple on Mount Zion.

The people of Jerusalem felt pretty special about having such close access to God, but this pride was often their greatest weakness. You see the people of Jerusalem imagined they had this holiness thing in the bag, being so close to the Lord and all. Imagine their shock when a prophet would come along to tell them that they were not so perfect as they thought. When God sent them the prophet Jeremiah, he told them:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place. Put not your trust in the deceitful words: “This is the temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD!” Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place…”

Time and again, God sent prophets to Jerusalem to call them to conversion, but Jerusalem would persecute, imprison and kill them. But they did not convert.  And, in the lifetime of Jeremiah, their enemies (the Babylonians) conquered  the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple of God within it. We hear God’s feelings about all this through words of Jesus:

“Jerusalem… Jerusalem… you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus’ words matter for us today too, because Jerusalem symbolizes our souls. At our baptism, God began to dwell in our souls as His temple, as His new Jerusalem. The psalm is speaking about your soul and mine when it says:

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! 
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates,
He has blessed the children within you.
He established peace on your borders,
He feeds you with finest wheat.   (Psalm 147)

Indeed, God has strengthened the bars of our gates, our defenses against evil. He has blessed the children, everything that is good and loveable, within us. He establishes peace on our borders, in our relationships with others. And He feeds us with the finest of wheat in the Eucharist. We should feel pretty special about having such close access to God, but we should not make the same mistakes as the old Jerusalem.

You and I can persecute God’s prophets too. We do it whenever we choose to rebel and sin against the good God wills for us. We do it whenever we kill the voice of conscience within us. We do it whenever we imprison the Holy Spirit’s movements within us to the confines of a tiny cell. We do it whenever ignore or refuse to listen to the teachers Christ has given for His Church.

When we are persecuting God’s prophets, we can even evict God’s presence from our souls through freely and knowingly committing a grave or serious sin. We are conquered by our enemy and the temple inside us is destroyed. And ‘behold, our house is abandoned, desolate; and we do not see Him again until we say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ What can do to help prevent this horrible estrangement from occurring?  And if it does occur, how can we ask the Lord God to return?

In the sacrament of reconciliation, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. When we acknowledge this, He forgives our sins, and God joyfully dwells in His cherished city. Today, Jesus Christ calls your city to repentance and the conversion of your soul.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

October 18, 2009

The Three Crosses by Rembrandt. 1653

Today, the Apostles James and John make their big pitch in order to move up the ladder in Jesus’ organization. “[Jesus,] grant that in your glory we may sit, one at your right, and the other at your left.” Jesus says to them, “You do not know what you are asking.”

They jump at the chance to drink of Jesus’ cup and to be baptized in His baptism, whatever that means, because they have no idea that these are allusions to Christ’s suffering. Jesus tells them, ‘You will drink my cup and experience my baptism, but to sit at my right and my left is for those for whom it has been prepared.’ Where are the seats beside Christ in His glory?  The Gospel of Mark later tells us: “With [Jesus] they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.” Indeed, James and John don’t know what they’re really asking.

They want spots beside Jesus’ throne because they think this will put their lives on Easy Street. They think that being enthroned at Christ’s side in glory means they will be served by everyone, and that they will never have to serve anyone else, ever again, besides Jesus of course. James and John want to live like as princes, like the billionaires, the bosses, and the big shots in the world. But true greatness is very different.

Whoever wishes to be great, Jesus says, must be a servant.  And whoever wishes to be the greatest of all, must be the servant to everyone. But we might ask why anyone would want this sort of greatness? Who wants to be a slave or to be crucified with Christ? And yet, Jesus offers such self-offering as the only greatness truly worth seeking? Why? Because true love equals self-gift, and in heaven love lasts forever.

In the world out there, there is a hierarchy according to wealth and power. For the Church on earth, Christ establishes a hierarchy according to orders. But for the Church in heaven, the hierarchy is established according to love. There is no money to be had in heaven. Greatness there is measured according to the love you can give and the love you receive from others.

Consider, who is more beloved on earth, Blessed Mother Teresa or the richest person in the world? And who is more likely to have a higher in heaven? When Mother Teresa died a million people turned out for her funeral. She, like all the saints, is rich in love.

If you desire true and lasting greatness, imitate Christ on earth, who became a slave for us. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. And through His trials and self-sacrifice, He offered his life as a ransom for us and won our hearts for Himself.

Though it is worthwhile, it isn’t easy to follow Christ. If we serve Him, we should expect temptations, trials and sufferings, too, just like Him.  Trials are normal for the Christian life and we should expect them.

As Saint Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Temptations are normal for the Christian life, too.  Jesus Himself was tempted in the desert and in the garden. As the second reading says, “…We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Understand and remember that human weakness and temptations are not the same thing as sin. It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was weak and tempted like us, but he never sinned. We only sin when we give in to temptation, when heart says “yes” to them.

Catherine of Siena by Giovanni[1]

Believe it or not, the saints know more about fierce temptation than unrepentant sinners do. The saints do battle against strong temptations, with the sacraments and prayer, with penance and self-disciple.  Many hardened sinners, on the other hand, don’t even know they are being tempted. One time, St. Catherine of Sienna, after she had made great progress in holiness, was subjected to the most violent temptations. Impure images filled her imagination and darkness attacked her heart. She called on God but He seemed to be absent. After these temptations had ceased, Jesus visited her, filling her with heavenly consolation. “Ah, my Divine Spouse,” she cried out, “where were you when I laid in such an abandoned and frightful condition?” “I was in your heart,” he replied, “fortifying you by grace.” “What, in the midst of the filthy abominations with which my soul was filled?” “Yes,” Jesus said, “for these temptations were most displeasing and painful to you. By fighting against them, you have gained immense merit, and the victory was because of my presence.”

When Jesus asked James and John if they could drink His cup and be baptized in His baptism, they eagerly responded, “We can!” Did they entirely know what this meant? No. Do we entirely know what it will mean for us to give our yes to Christ and to follow in His footsteps? No.  But with that little seed from James and John, Jesus was able to grow them into great saints.

Jesus Christ is the greatest person who has ever lived.  No one has been greater and no one has done greater things.  No one has loved better and no one is better loved. Let’s follow in his footsteps, even if that means the cross, for to be remade in His image means sharing in His greatness, His glory and His joy.

October 2 – Guardian Angels

October 2, 2009

There are members of our Church gathered here today, who are always with us, but whom we all-to-easily overlook. It is to this group of persons that I wish to speak to today: our holy guardian angels. I invite you to share in my thoughts and sentiments of my words to them.

Holy Guardian Angels,
First, I want to apologize for our tendency to forget about you and the important part you play in our lives. Though we do not say it enough, thank you Holy Ones, for everything you do for us and we ask you for your continued help.

May we be always docile to your promptings. Please accept this invitation to enter our thoughts and emotions as through an open door. You are Christ’s perfectly sinless creatures, and you discern His will with far more clarity than we do. Please make His will clear for us and make it easy for us to follow it.

Holy Angels, you know the hearts and minds of men with penetrating insight. Please help us through your mediation to communicate graciously with the people in our lives. Please help mediate good resolutions to the conflicts and tensions we have with others. Please help us to know how to best communicate Christ’s love to others in ways that are tailored for them.

Holy Guardians, just as some of your angelic peers ministered to Jesus Christ amidst His sufferings, please bring us support and consolation in our difficult moments. And please defend us against spiritual attacks, for you understand these threats far better than we do.

Please join us in our prayers. Perfect in them and add to them whatever may be lacking. Please pray with us for our loved ones and for the intentions which are dear to us. You are blessed to see God face-to-face and you worship Him day and night. Please lead us to perfect worship.

Holy Guardian Angels, thank you, for everything you do for us. Know that we will someday thank you even more profusely when it is revealed to us in detail all that you’ve done to light, to guard, to rule and to guide our lives.

September 29 – The Archangels

September 29, 2009

Today we celebrate Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. God created lots of angels, so that they might enjoy, share and manifest His glory. Within this multitude, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael hold special rank as archangels. The angels and archangels are like us in important ways, but in other ways they’re very different.

Just like us, God did not create the angels to fulfill some need He had. God needs nothing to be happy and complete. God made heaven and earth, all that is seen and unseen, out of sheer love, overflowing. God created us because love likes to share.

Just like us, God created the angels as persons. We are persons because we both have intellect and will, the capacity to know and the ability to freely choose. Just like us, angels are persons, having souls which will never die. But unlike us, angels don’t have a physical body united to their soul. Instead of body and spirit, angels are spirit alone.

Like us, angels know things and choose things. Like us, they’re made for interpersonal-communion. They interact with God, with each other, with us, and our world. But like God, and unlike us, angels live outside of time. We humans grow, and change, and mature, day by day. We’re incomplete and we develop over time. We can choose holiness one day, choose to sin the next, and on the day after that, think better of it, repent, go to confession, and return to God. But in the case of angels, their natures are complete and finished. And the free choices they’ve made once are made for all time. That is why the angels are forever sinless creatures, and why the demons, who are the angels who chose to rebel and were cast down from heaven, will never turn back to God.

We do not know exactly why Satan and the many demons fell, but it is clear that they did not, in their sinful pride, want the roles in God’s kingdom which God had prepared for them. Some speculate that when the angels where created, God gave them some knowledge of His plans for the human race. God wished the angels to share in this plan, but, for some reason, some refused to serve.

Perhaps it was the scandal of the Incarnation, the idea that the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, would take on material flesh. Maybe they refused to worship the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, in such a state as that. Perhaps, filled with pride about their own glory, which was entirely God’s gift, they refused to be Christ-like and serve creatures they deemed to be inferior to themselves.

Whatever the reason for it, a war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels battled against Satan. Satan and his angels fought back, but they did not prevail. The demons wanted to be like God, but without God. Perhaps Michael challenged them with the meaning of his name, “Who is like God?” They wanted to be God, but without God, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

And now we arrive at the lesson we learn from the demons’ Fall that I want you to take to heart…

When the demons refused to be what they were made and called by God to be, they became something far less than what they were meant to be. By turning away from God, the source of their life, they became stupid, ugly, and weak compared to what they should have been.

Compared to what God makes us, calls us, and longs for us to be, sin makes us stupid, ugly, and weak too.

Do you have any sins?

Every Tuesday I sit in my office as much time as can, from the end of morning Mass until 3:00 PM, when prayers are offered in the Columbus chapel that God the Father would have mercy on us. I’ve spent hours at my desk, behind my confessional screen, catching up various work. And in all that time, not a single student has come for the sacrament that reconciles sinners with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now don’t think that I’m angry about this. Tuesdays for me as they are now are very productive days. I get a lot done behind my desk. But I would very much prefer, that so many of you would come, to the healing forgiveness, and strengthening graces, that Jesus is waiting to give you in this sacrament, that I would get nothing else done.

I want you to come to the sacrament that cleans your slate and lightens your heart. I want you to come to the sacrament that makes you wiser, stronger, and more attractive as a person than you are when you’re in sin. I want you to come to the sacrament of reconciliation, not for my sake, but for your sake.

Through the intercession of St. Raphael, whose name means “God’s healing,” may we believe in God’s power to heal our wounds. Through the intercession of St. Gabriel, whose name means “God’s power,” may we believe in God’s power to recreate the repentant sinner. And through the intercession of St. Michael, may we consider “who is like God,” who shows mercy to all who come to Him.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

September 27, 2009

There are many things wrong with our society and the world, but how are we to go about changing them? One approach was presented by a fellow named Saul Alinsky. He, and his highly-influential 1971 book entitled Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, have been popping up a lot lately. Reading his list of 11 rules you can see how they are widely used in politics & culture today.

The dedication of the book reads like this: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

I doubt Alinsky believed in the devil at all.  He probably wrote that because it was a clever and effective attention-grabber for his book. But the book’s dedication was truer than he realized.  The book recalls the first rebel’s rejection of the kingdom of God and then goes on to explicate rules which often reject the approaches embodied and advocated by Christ, whose approaches the world often considers too impotent to defeat evil in the world.

The tactics this book advocates are often the same used by demons in spiritual warfare against us—a war fought on the battlefields of our hearts and minds, for the defense or the capture our souls.

Consider, for example, “Rules for Radicals #1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.” And, “Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself.” Demons fight us most effectively when they deceive us into imagining they are more powerful than they are. In fact, the only real weapon they have against us is to play on our fears, for we protected against demons in Christ.

Rules for Radicals # 4: “Make opponents live up to their own book of rules.” Alinsky writes, “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” In following this rule, one follows the example of the Great accuser, the devil, who (as the book of Revelation says) night and day accuses us before God for sins. Alinsky’s charge against Christians, that the Christian Church cannot live up to Christianity, blends the truth and lies, just like the words of the demons when they speak to our thoughts.

The truth is that we are God’s servants, that we care deeply about Christ’s teachings, and that all of us commit sins, sins that we would say we truly oppose. But, like the psalmist, we pray for God to cleanse us from even our unknown faults. And from wanton sin especially, we sincerely ask the Lord to restrain us; to not let it rule us, so that we may be blameless and innocent of serious sin. Even though we do not yet follow Christ perfectly, we are truly made better people, more Christ-like, through our relationship with Him.

Yet demons want us to convince us we’re all hypocrites. They want to make us silent, out of shame for our sins, about what is right and what is wrong. They would even cause us to give up on trying to live-out lives of perfect love. Though we are sinners, we trust in God’s mercy and love. Jesus was always merciful toward sinners who acknowledged their guilt and He enabled them to become more perfect through a relationship with Himself.

Rules for Radicals #11: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.” Alinsky writes, “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” You’ve seen this polarizing tactic employed through the media, and you see it all the time. It’s called the politics of personal destruction.

It is the demonizing of individuals who we don’t agree with. Christians must not be indifferent to wrongs wherever they are committed, but when it comes to persons, what Christians seek and pray for is the conversion of sinners, not their destruction. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Do tactics like those which Saul Alinsky laid out actually work at effecting change?  The answer is both Yes and No. Lots of influential people use them because they make lots of noise and heat and angry waves; they can end people’s careers, and they can extort institutions into making concessions. The power of these tactics makes them a strong temptation. But temptations they remain, for they do not have the power to bring about the kingdom of God.

Is the Church interested in social change? The Church is very much interested in social change, just like Jesus was, but we follow the way of His example. Allow me to present another influential writer of the 20th century, as an example, someone who was interested in radical social change of the Christian sort: Pope John Paul the Great. He is rightly called “the Great” for he must be counted among the greatest men of the last century.

Consider how he opposed the great evils and injustices of the communist empire. John Paul did not deal in deceptions. He spoke the truth, because he believed that the truth is powerful enough to set us free. He cared deeply and passionately about the grave injustices being committed, but he never seemed hateful because he was driven by true Christian love. He taught that some actions are wrong, even unspeakably wrong, but that all persons are worthy of love, and he radiated this love of God for all to see through his smile. His focus was not in personal attacks, but in speaking the truth to the human consciences. He insisted that all people should be given the recognition of the dignity and the rights they have from God: to live, and live freely, to speak the truth, and live the truth.

This is what he did, and the communist dictators literally trembled before him. When the communist leader of Poland welcomed the pope to his homeland in a speech at the airport broadcast on state-controlled TV, the dictator’s voice, and the paper he held in his hand, both quivered. The pope was so powerful against them, simply with the message and example of Christ, that the communists tried to kill him in St. Peter’s square, but the Pope miraculously survived the bullets, and forgave his would-be assassin.

By the mercy and the power of God, and in no small part through the words, deeds, and prayers of Pope John Paul the Great, the Soviet empire, which did so many evils for the sake of a utopia that never came to be, that empire ended; not with the fire of a thousand nuclear blasts, but with a harmless dying gasp. It was miracle, a peaceful victory for Christ and the Kingdom of God.

There are many things wrong with our society and the world, but how are we to go about changing them? Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” It’s good to work for justice, and we must work for justice, but we must remember this: true justice comes through the way of peace, the way embodied by our Lord, Jesus Christ. So whose example will we be dedicated to as we work for change in the world; that of Lucifer or that of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 2, 2009

Notice in today’s Gospel how Jesus does not let the demons speak.

[D]emons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But [Jesus] rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

Jesus does not allow them to speak, even about the truth of his being the messiah, because demons mix lies within truth.

In the garden, the serpent asked the Eve, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” No, God hadn’t told them that, but God had told them not to eat from one particular tree, or they would die. The serpent insisted, “You certainly will not die!” and it is true that when they ate of the tree Adam and Eve did not keel over dead right then and there, but the divine life within them did die to be followed by natural deaths many years later.

The book of Acts records how St. Paul once encountered a slave girl who carried a demon. The slave girl used to bring profits to her owners through her fortune-telling. For many days she followed Paul, shouting out, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” Finally, Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her,” and at that moment it left her. Did you catch the lie amidst the truth in what the slave girl’s demon said? “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you ‘a’ way of salvation.”

Demons smuggle lies into the truth. If a man accepts and carries a compass that is just off just a few degrees, he may not notice that anything’s wrong with it until he’s horribly lost. If there are angels helping us throughout our daily lives, encouraging us and prompting us to do good, then there are also demons trying to do the opposite.

Don’t have conversations with demons. They are spirits far more clever than us and they can confuse or discourage us greatly. However, as Christians, we should not be afraid of them. If and when you feel their oppression, make the sign of the cross (for this is an exorcistic gesture) or say, “In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, depart from me and go where you can hurt no one.” Such is our authority in Christ, that we too can command spirits. Holy water is helpful, too; it’s power can sometimes make a palpable difference.

And here’s a final tip for discerning whether a spirit be good or bad, of God or not: From time to time our friends in heaven my correct us or challenge us in our lives as disciples of Christ. But, if you ever feel discouraged or weakened, as if by an accusation or a rebuke, that is not from them. Such condemnation is either coming from of your own, lingering, internal brokenness or from an external oppressor. When one of our heavenly friends corrects or challenges us, they leave us feeling their love and with increased strength to do what is good. Recognizing this difference will help you in receiving grace and peace from God our Father.

Funeral for Robert J. Wallig, 89

August 18, 2009

In late 1942, at the young age of twenty-two, Robert Wallig went off to war. He bravely answered his call and helped in winning the Second World War. He served as an army medic, in the European theater, earning a Bronze Star. Bob was going to go on to become a medic after the war, but the coming of the first of his five beloved children and changed his and Donna’s plans. I am told that Robert never liked to talk very much about his wartime abroad—which is a strong indication that he witnessed and experienced some very difficult things back then.

There are not many World War II veterans still around, but I tell you, there is still a world war being fought today, and you and I are in its combat theater. I am not speaking so much about the War on Terror or any other particular war between peoples or nations.  Such wars among flesh and blood are just the manifestations of a broader, less visible war.  The World War I’m speaking of is a spiritual war being waged between Christ and the principalities and powers who oppose Him.  We cannot see this spiritual conflict directly, but we can see in our world the consequences of its victories and losses.  We can feel and recognize its skirmishes being fought inside of us.  The battle is for our souls. This is why the Church here on earth is called the Church militant, and why St. Paul so often uses military language—because we are in a war.

 Our demonic adversaries in this campaign are more evil than the Nazis and manipulated by a leader far more dark than Hitler. Yet we should not be afraid.

For “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Fear is the only real weapon our enemy has. Their strategy is to make us mistrust our Lord and to choose another, renegade path of our own, to divide us, apart from God and apart from one another. But we fight together as a band of brothers on the side of Christ, who has already won the greater part of the battle. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The only way a Christian can be lost in this war is through surrendering to the enemy.

Occasionally, we may be wounded by sin during this cosmic battle, but these wounds can be healed, through the sacraments which Christ, our field medic, has provided for our care. Yet even after the gapping wounds of our sins are closed through the sacraments, scars can often still remain; scars of fear, guilt, sadness, bitterness, resentment, regret, and the like. After we have fought the good fight by the grace, and are honorably discharged from this life, such scars can still remain an can delay our entry into the Church triumphant in heaven; where the saints now fully enjoy their victory won. Instead, our scars may keep us just outside heaven, in what is called the Church suffering, or rather, the Church healing, for the path to our healing can be painful. This is a place of hope called purgatory, where souls are being healed, completed and made perfect for heaven.

Like the general of Israel, Judas Maccabeus, whom  we heard about of in the first reading, let us offer sacrifice and prayers for our fallen brother.  Our prayers, united to the one and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which we really encounter here at the Mass, can help to heal Robert of any and all of the scars he might have.

I’m sure that all of you know Robert far better than I, you know what sort of man he is, and from what I have been told that is very good, so you have the well-founded hope that he is well on his way in Christ. But I ask of you, a favor for him, the same favor that I would ask for myself if it were possible for me to preach at my own funeral:  to please pray for him. It can only do him good, and perhaps very great deal of good.

In the decades after the war, Robert did many, many things. Among these, Robert worked as a custodian for one of God’s own homes, a church in Kenosha.  He also worked as a manager for others’ residences, including apartments here in Marshfield. He repaired the boilers, emptied the trash, painted the walls, cleaned what was dirty, and did whatever else was necessary for the place to be ready and just right. Jesus tells us, in our Father’s house there are many dwelling places. Christ has been at work, busy preparing a perfect place for Robert. So let us help Robert to get moved in, and to become completely settled, in this new home.