Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spiritual Warfare Made Easy

The following comes from the Holy Spirit Interactive site:

The lives of the Saints provide us with an excellent commentary on real spiritual warfare. St.Ignatius of Loyola, a military man and master strategist, gives excellent guidelines for recognising and guarding against "the deceits of the rebel chief" and for a "knowledge of the true life exemplified in the sovereign and true Commander". He says that the Enemy summons and scatters innumerable demons throughout the world and goads them on to lay snares for men and women and to bind them with chains: first they are to tempt them to covet riches, that they may the more easily attain the empty honours of this world, and then come to overweening pride; from there he leads them to all other vices. Christ, on the other hand, attracts men and women to the highest spiritual poverty, and if God so chooses them for it, even to actual poverty; secondly, to at least a readiness (if not also a desire) for humiliations (insults and wrongs), for from these spring humility; and from there to all other virtues.

St. Ignatius wrote the above 500 years ago, but the respective strategies of the Enemy, and of Christ, are still the same today too! Materialism and consumerism are nothing but temptations of the Evil One to covet riches, by which people can then attain the empty honours of this world, and end up in overweening pride. The huge success of the Enemy's strategy is seen from the fact that individualism and freedom from restraint, together with self-indulgence, have become distinguishing characteristics of our modern generation, not only in secular culture but also within Christianity, for example, in the signs-and-wonders branch of fundamentalist TV evangelism.

On the other hand, knowing that the "world" and the "flesh" are the vast battlefronts where the Evil One is gaining ground, Jesus invites us to the direct opposite of "coveting riches, and empty worldly honours, and pride". He pours out his Holy Spirit, so that our "desires are against the flesh" (Gal.5:17), and so that we experience power to "not live as if we still belong to the world" (Col.2:20). The Holy Spirit tries to attract us to the Beatitudes (Mt.5), and to a Gospel-lifestyle as in the early Church (washing one another's feet, bearing one another's burdens, forgiving one another 70 times 7, becoming the servant of all, etc., etc.).

Hence, a most important way of getting equipped for effective spiritual warfare is personal openness to the Person of the Holy Spirit, and to the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. The charismatic gifts of faith, discernment of spirits, and prayer in tongues, the messianic gifts of wisdom, counsel, knowledge and fortitude, and the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, self-control and steadfastness are especially important items of the spiritual armour we must wear every waking moment. This is because the Spirit is "another Advocate," especially given to us by Jesus and the Father, to help us in spiritual warfare. Jesus even said it was better for us that he himself should go, otherwise we could not receive his Spirit. And whereas the world, the flesh and the devil are very strong, "the Spirit who is within us is greater than the one who is in the world" (1Jn.4:4).

Even so great an apostle as St. Paul would confess, "I buffet my flesh, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be lost!" (1Cor.9:27). Paul engaged in thisordinary and personal spiritual warfare throughout the year, besides the specialspiritual warfare he waged when casting out evil spirits from other people. In the Catholic Church, the season of Lent is the special time when the whole People of God gears itself annually to renewed involvement in spiritual warfare. Then, the means of daily personal prayer, a steadily increasing familiarity with and devotion to theword of God, fasting and penance, making new attempts at promoting social justice, frequent participation in the sacraments, enlisting the powerful intercession of Mary in the context of an authentic Marian devotion, etc., are all recommended. But all these are not merely for the season of Lent! For those of us who are serious about spiritual warfare, they are the basics of ongoing, ordinary, all-year-round spirituality.

To conclude, spiritual warfare, I mean holistic spiritual warfare, is more than just "casting out demons". That kind, the extraordinary kind (of setting people free who are oppressed by evil spirits) is meant for a few Christians, depending on the ministry they are called to. But the ordinary kind that is meant for all is fighting against the "world" and the "flesh". This is the kind Paul was referring to when he wrote about fighting against the principalities and powers of darkness, and what Peter warned us, about the devil going about like a roaring lion. In this "spiritual-warfare- made-easy", all of us must be involved as Spirit-filled and Spirit-led disciples, and we will experience the Holy Spirit taking many initiatives on our behalf, for God's greater glory and our eternal good!

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