Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spiritual Warfare

I love Fr. James Martin, SJ.  He is funny and sensible.  He reaches non-Catholics and Catholics alike. You may know him from Stephen Colbert's show.  I love how he distills Catholic teaching and Ignatian spirituality into bite-size portions on Twitter, or very accessible "take aways."  When someone reasonable like Fr. Martin posts about evil (or the "devil" or "satan" or whatever-you'd-like-to-call-it), it strikes me as even more convincing.  This isn't a person prone to scare tactics or crazy fanaticism.

Here are two links regarding the statue that recently went up in Detroit.  One from Fr. Martin, and one from Fr. Dwight Longenecker.  I mostly leave them here as food for thought, and for myself to refer back to at a later time.

Fr. Martin's take

Fr. Longenecker's take

My own parish priest, who is truly dear to me, has alluded to the fact that he doesn't quite exactly believe there is a "devil."  As a representative of the Catholic Church, he doesn't dissent from Church teaching officially, but he says that it's a possibility because the Church teaches that it's true.

Back in my charismatic Protestant days, pretty much we were taught that the "devil" was in everything.  For the first time, I was taught (and believed) that God was good.  Truly good.  Only good.  I still believe that.  But, what wasn't present in charismatic Protestant circles was the idea of the cross.  Suffering was a result of the "devil" or your own lack of faith.  It was sort of a Christian karma, couched in the language of sowing and reaping.

It's a mystery that God is good, goodness itself, and yet, we do sometimes have to suffer.  God is not up there trying to create something bad in our lives, but He may not always heal us, cure us, fix things just how we want him to.  Instead, sometimes we bear a cross.  Not necessarily a cross that he inflicted upon us - sometimes we are the victims of evil - but a cross that he helps us to bear.  (In the words of Teresa of Avila, "If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!")  It's a mystery what God allows and what He doesn't allow, who gets healed and who doesn't, whose prayers are "answered" the way we'd like and whose are not.

In my conversion experience, it is only the Catholic Church who presents a sane version of reality - a way to deal with suffering that both acknowledges it, believes in the supernatural, affirms that God is good, and also permits there to be a cross.

I do believe the devil is real.  I believe that there are forces of darkness, just as there are forces of light and grace.  I have felt the "resistance" when I try to do good or seek God.  I have been tempted and deceived.  I have heard satanists' accounts of their hatred of Jesus, especially in the Catholic eucharist.  I know it's real.  It's a battle we must fight.

As our world seems to just get darker and darker, we must be brighter and brighter lights.  As a Protestant, we used to sing songs about "Onward Christian Soldier" and bind the devil.  Now, as a Catholic, I am beginning to see that we are missionaries in this world and culture.  Sometimes it's the world who attacks and misunderstands us, sometimes it's fellow Catholics, sometimes it's fellow Christians who mean well.

I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist.  I don't want to have to fight some of these fights.  I don't know how bad it may get.  And, yet, in my adulthood, I have seen quite a change in the world around me.  We hold the truth and the light.  We must stand for it, proclaim it in our own lives, and dig deep enough to let it sustain us.  I love the Franciscan idea that our lives proclaim the gospel, or Augustine's idea that the truth defends itself.  At the same time, the gospel my life proclaims may not be worth following.  We have to be willing to speak up if needed, to do our part to love and serve our neighbors, and to speak the truth with as much love as possible, steeped in prayer.

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