Again drawing from Jesus’ words in Mathew: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me…behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” [Mt.28: 16-20]
Again and again as we reflect upon the mystery and reality of spiritual warfare we do well to keep before the eyes of our hearts the salient truth that Christ IS risen, He IS with us.
In his novel ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, Cormac McCarthy, has characters reflect thus: “Rawlins leaned and tipped the ash from his cigarette into the fire and leaned back. ‘You ever think about dyin? Yeah. Some. You think there’s a heaven? Yeah. Don’t you? I don’t know. Yeah. Maybe. You think you can believe in heaven if you don’t believe in hell? I guess you can believe what you want to.’”
In those few lines of dialogue we find clues to the core malaise of our over indulged culture, a culture of relativism and death, of anxiety and violence, of addiction and extremes between those who have so much, those who have so little, a culture in the darkness of so much anger and divisions, hated and war.
We have been created by Love for love, by Life for life, by Light for light.
Even within the depths of their being every person hungers for love, life, light and for the baptized this hunger is, or should be if we open to it, urgent!
The urgency is for fullness of communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity.
The one who refused communion of love for the eternal stench of hatred and aloneness, is what has him so dangerously jealous of us and why he wages war against Love; he chose the eternal cold of darkness, for the fires of hell burn not with warmth but with the scalding relentlessness of liquid nitrogen; he assaults us not because he cares a wit about us but because of his hatred of Jesus.
When I glance out of the windows of my urban hermitage into the alley and see men and women, homeless dumpster divers, I can observe them with prayerful love and compassion as my brothers and sisters, or I can chose to judge them as anything ranging from dirty to druggies or whatever.
I mention this because one of the ways the evil one weakens our being in union with Jesus in the battles of spiritual warfare is to suggest judgment.
We Christians should be observant about the reality of the culture of death, however if we are to be faithful to the Gospel mandate: “…do not judge that you may not be judged….” [cf. Mt.7:1-5].
Commenting on this, Erasmo Levi-Merikakis, in his book FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, notes: “ The important nuance here is that, if we do not judge others, most likely others will go on judging us, but God will not judge us, and that one Judgement at the threshold of eternity is the only crucial one…If I had the mind of God I would forgive all, which means I would sustain rather than judge, or, better still, my very judgement would consist of forgiveness, because it would judge the misery and plight that underline most human actions.”
If we be still for a few moments and reflect honesty about abortion, domestic violence, Islamists, clerical abuse, a particular political party or whatever pushes us towards unbridled emotion/harsh thinking, we will discover how indeed we judge and whether or not we have the mind and heart of Christ.
Satan relies on human harshness and hatred, judgement and un-forgiveness, on anger because these emotional whirlpools sap our spiritual strength and distract us from being truly Christlike lights in the darkness.
In Revelation we are given a further insight into the mind and heart of God who, long before He is shown releasing the horsemen, the Lord casts His gaze upon the Church, upon us, lamenting from His heart: “…I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.” [Rev. 2:4, 5] – and – “…I know your works; I know that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’ [Rev.3:15, 16]
Once again we are reminded the first place of battle within this war is in the depths of our own being.
To be engaged in spiritual warfare is always the struggle to be faithful to our baptismal vocation, to be converted anew each day, cooperating with the action of the Holy Spirit within us as each day we take up our cross, His cross, and follow Jesus.
Anything less is surrender to being at the very least, cold of heart and soul, clearly at the very worst to be lukewarm.
The first letter of St. Peter, in a sense the first papal encyclical, is another template for how to live as faithful Christians, to embrace suffering as individuals, as Church [cf. 1 Pt. 1-5:7] and urges us to: “ Be sober and alert for your opponent the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” [v.8ff.]
The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, in her book SOUL OF MY SOUL, expresses everything discussed here very bluntly: “What is He calling us to? He is calling us to what each of us most deeply desires. He is calling us to a life that will bear fruit, for sterility is the most tragic thing that can happen to us. Remember the parable of the fig tree? God offers us fertility. He offers us a life of unimaginable fruitfulness, because He offers us the possibility of helping Him build His kingdom. What is that kingdom? It is you and me, and the girl who takes drugs, and the alcoholic down the street. His kingdom is the lame and the blind, the lonely and the jobless, the rich and the poor. It includes all human races. It is the whole world.”
Are we then through our struggle to be faithful, through our prayer and action, crying out for Divine Mercy for every human being, crying with the Church, maranatha! Come back to us Jesus, or through our lack of faith, repentance, love, lukewarmness, have be we deliberately or inadvertently through our fascination with or surrender to the culture of darkness and death become conjurers?
“Macbeth: How now, you secret, black and midnight hags, What is’t you? All the witches: A deed without a name. Macbeth: I conjure you by that which you profess, howe’er you come to know it, answer me, though you untie the winds and let them fight against the churches, though the yeasty waves confound and swallow navigation up, though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down, though castles topple on their warder’s heads, though palaces and pyramids do slope their heads to their foundations, though the treasure of nature’s garments tumble all together even till destruction sicken, answer me, to what I ask you.
First witch: Speak. Second witch: Demand. Third witch: We’ll answer. First witch: Say if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths or from out masters. Macbeth: Call’em, let me see’em.”
Shakespeare above, and in his own fashion Dostoevsky in novels, reveal this horrific human tendency to dabble in, or choose to invoke, powers and spirits of darkness and death, for example through the occult/pornography as two blatant examples, but we can also do so by giving into anger, hatred, ego, greed, etc..
We have Jesus, Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel indeed all the Angels and Saints for guidance and protection from every activity of evil spirits.
Most importantly we have Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist. Frequent participation, humbly, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and most critically in Holy Mass and Holy Communion envelops us with sacred shields, gives us a holy sword with which to battle the enemy.
In his work, in particular in his book HEALING YOUR FAMILY TREE, Fr. Hampsch teaches how we may indeed by impacted by the actions of others, warning clearly that: ``We must look particularly for involvement either in drugs or in the occult, which most often opens the door to evil spirits; also where there has been activity of a bizarre sexual nature. Within the occult, some practices are more deleterious, more dangerous, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. For instance, astrology is certainly a dangerous practice but nowhere near as dangerous as satan worship. Within the range of occultic practices, things…spawning demonic intervention would include astrology….the use of Ouija boards, consulting mediums, engaging in séances, using tarot cards,…fortune-telling….The prayer for relieving such bondage must involve exercise of consummate faith in Jesus [Mk.9:23]and spiritual maturity reflected in prayer and fasting. [v.29]