Friday, 15 February 2019 11:55

Battle Readiness

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I kept turning to the same page in what seemed a random occurrence. Have you ever played Bible Roulette? Just open and start reading. I was doing the same with Mary of Agreda’s City of God, i.e., her visions regarding Jesus’ public ministry and His mother’s instrumental role in supporting Her Son in the Father’s great effort to redeem souls

The graced visions granted to Mary of Agreda are powerful, and they reveal a mother who intimately understands that she is: a) a mother, who, when her Child is wounded, intimately experiences these same wounds in her heart and body, and b) while protective of her Son, Mary, mother of God, is sacrificial, willing to support the sacrifice of her Son the Lamb of God. She does this because she understands the will of the Father and, because of her formation, is obedient (Big ‘thank you’ to Saints Ann and Joachim!). She is obedient even when she knows in her heart that her Son must die. She embodies total sacrifice.

God spares Isaac from his father, Abraham, but it is a different story with Mary and Jesus. When it comes to God’s love for us, He knows our only escape from crippling concupiscence is His Son’s death. The Son must die to deliver us a redemptive path for our very own crosses. 

So, it’s a worthy read for souls looking to go a bit deeper into fathoming all the mysteries bound up in the Rosary. 

And although the visions are extensive and the book includes many pages, I kept opening the book up to the same page. Luck of the draw or something else? 

On this page was a written vision of the devil’s response to the cross. The cross and subsequent Resurrection had hoodwinked the devil. 

The devil and his minions thought they had cornered the Son during His Passion. They knew if they deployed their forces during this time period, they could inflict intense pain and suffering upon the hated God-Man. They would show their brute power, destroy His precious Flesh, and evil would win. 

And they did.  The devil’s legions possessed the Jews and Roman soldiers. They incited their spirits to a great level of hatred. This hatred did not just spur on a normal crucifixion, if there ever could be one, but a shocking level of brutality on the way to the crucifixion site. This one particular journey to death was so brutal that early Christians, for generations, could not even discuss the Lord’s death; it was that terrible. 

In fact, on the way to Golgotha, the Lord suffered so much fleshly damage, that, according to another visionary, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, angels walked alongside Jesus on his march towards crucifixion. The angels provided our Lord with medical attention and angelic nutrients. It was this team effort that allowed our Lord to complete His death march, as His own physical Body could no longer move under its own power. The devil had won, or so he thought. 

But then, something miraculous happened. On the third day, the Lord was raised, expelling death to where it belongs, to the confines of lonely hell. 

It was this act, the Resurrection which confounded the devil and his minions. ‘How could the God-Man use all of our power, all of our pain, inflicted on His own Person to profoundly redefine love?’ With God’s sacrifice, love had nothing to do with ‘self.’ No, God’s love and light now had everything to do with sacrifice of self. God modelled for us the greatest of virtues and the answer to evil pride: humility. It is in the sacrifice of the Son, where we received the reality of redemption and everlasting life among the heavenly hosts. 

As this reality sets in, Lucifer is very upset. He realizes, as do his fallen comrades, that he played his part in the cross’s creation and his own downfall. His efforts at establishing a new reign of darkness had failed. 

But his response to failure is very interesting. Like a modern CEO of a Fortune 500 company, he asks for feedback, a response to his own leadership failure: ‘How do we move forward in damning God’s children, despite the major setback of the cross and the resurrection?’ 

Once Lucifer’s request for suggestions from his demon brethren goes out, the suggestion box fills up quickly. In analytical fashion, the demons take a whole year to plan their next series of assaults.  The demons suggest to their leader that they renew their vows to spreading vice and sin. They assess their very own demonic skills and suggest breaking into teams/squads of demons, focused on the sins they instill best. These demons will have unique missions to distract man from the cross, to make man forget the cross. Once distracted, man would drift from Christ and delve hopelessly into man’s different passions. Lucifer, when considering all his demons’ suggestions, revels in them. He approves all of these suggestions and, thus, the dark strategy is deployed. 

In a Spanish digital publication called Aciprensa, there’s a metaphor for the cross. In it, the cross’s horizontal timber shows the Lord’s open arms, extended towards us, even as our sin nails him to it. These open arms are a welcome mat for us, a welcoming to lift our own cross on high. This sign of encouragement and solidarity is married with the vertical timber. 

The vertical timber represents our goal. Like Jesus, we must persevere through this life’s challenges and distractions; we carry our cross lightly because as we gaze at Jesus, we know His cross was so very heavy. As we carry it, willingly, lovingly, we vertically ascend with our Lord. Although wounded by our own sin, Jesus’s sacrifice gives us the courage to carry our own cross as we attempt to unify ourselves with him and pass through His kingdom’s pearly gates. 

 The cross, then, is the great reminder of who Catholics are. We are the cross bearers, trying to stay focused on heavenly access through Jesus, despite personal sin. If we lose focus, we lose eternity. The devil knows this and he has succeeding in distracting us.

I believe, since Jesus’ sacrifice, Lucifer is winning. Lucifer’s battle plans were laid out over 2000 years ago in methodic fashion. Darkness’ comeback would happen with military precision.Their seek and destroy mission to topple Jesus’ church seems to be working, even at the highest levels of Jesus’ own church. Our faith says Jesus wins in the end. But, how many of us will be by His side? Given the current state of affairs, what is a Catholic to do? 

Searching for answers, I happened upon a holy woman. She would probably say she’s striving towards holiness but, self-admittedly, she’s far from the goal. However, in my humble opinion, she’s leading a very humble life, not inviting any fanfare as she leads her large family of 6 children along a path of holy formation. I approached her after Mass and asked her: “What is your family doing to purify our church?”  This question, said in another way, could have been articulated as ‘How do we win this battle? All seems to be crumbling around us. What can we do?’

And shouldn’t the answer of a holy person be simple, direct, and have 100% chance of success? After all, the holy person is contemplating Mary, is contemplating the Son, is contemplating holy redemption and how their own person can become smaller to make room for the divine. They are actively working on surrendering their ‘self’ so that God’s love can take over. 

It’s with this primary focus on the what is highest and most beautiful that provides context for the holy person’s response. Their response’s context will always assume that light dispels darkness. The holy person knows this because they have studied and experienced the light through four people: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and God’s mother, Mary. 

So, as I waited for the response to my question, I already somehow knew what her answer would be. She would quote our Lord’s public ministry as captured in the Gospels. For it is in the Bible, especially in the inspired words of Jesus, where we find direction, on how to respond to anything we are faced with. 

Her answer was three words: “Prayer and fasting.” Her family would be doubling down on prayer and removing items from their daily diets, more fully relying on God’s providence. That’s the answer. This is how we fight and take the church back to its moral roots in Christ.

Jesus overcame all Lucifer’s temptations by becoming physically hungry, by filling himself with the Father’s counsel given in prayer. He is battle-ready in a way this world does not understand or chooses not to understand. Perhaps, by fasting, we are more apt to pray because we fear we are dying and need more help. ‘Lord, I’m dying, or, at least I think I am, because I am hungry...I need sustenance; so, without food, in my hungry state, I turn towards You.’ 

For Americans, this might initially be a tall order. For, it is here, that we find ourselves at the center of the material. We have so much, too much, that we have created for ourselves a maelstrom of distraction from our most important purpose: to develop a relationship with God and to live a life of sanctity here on earth. 

But, the answer is simple, clear and true: Prayer and fasting. That is how we fight and win because that is how Mary and Jesus did it. 

The question is what can we do today to take one small step towards a battle-readiness? 

As inspiration to do what we must do to win, perhaps St. Therese of Jesus says it best:

“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”  

Amen.

DaneBairdDane Baird has been a witness member of the Home of the Mother for over 3 years. He has two daughters, Jean and Susannah. The newest addition to the family is Halo, wonder-dog! His profession is teaching autistic children and he enjoys acting in several parish and diocesan ministries, as well as supporting the Home of the Mother.

His blog is called "Fathers Floreat!" Floreat is a word he heard on retreat, it is latin for to flourish, to bloom. Men should be blossoming according to God's plan.

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