Sunday, June 16, 2019

Suffering and spiritual warfare

St Paul tells us in the second reading that: "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
We do have peace to some degree in our life—but with tribulation. Therefore, the peace attainable in this life does not consist in the contentment of someone who wants to have no problems, but rather in the resolute hope of someone who manages to rise above suffering and stays faithful through endurance. Suffering is necessary for us, because it is the normal way to grow in virtue.  And it leads to joy and happiness.
Paul teaches that acting like Christ in the world through the Spirit, fixes our gaze, not only on the present world, but on the future glory we will share with God. Paul knew, from the trials he underwent and in the suffering of Christians he visited, that we would need guidance, strength and endurance from the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s Christian communities faced persecution from their Roman oppressors and their own Jewish community.  And Christians also suffered discord among their ranks.
In the context of so much pain, Paul is encouraging the Christians to accept their suffering and see it as a proving ground for their faith and a sure sign that God has not abandoned them, but is still loving them and pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them.
As some of you know, recently our grandson Eli had a skateboarding accident and suffered a severe concussion.  When we visited him in the hospital on the evening of the accident, he was heavily drugged and was frequently flaying his arms and legs.  When he was awake, he just wanted to leave.  Of course, the nurse told us that this was all normal and was a good sign.  Fortunately, he is doing well now and will just have to be careful and take it easy this summer.  Your prayers  were reassuring to us and to his parents during this crises.  I'm certain that your prayers helped him to recover quickly.  Thank you for praying for him.
In the days following Eli's accident, I reflected on my reaction to the accident.  I must admit that I was afraid.  I was afraid for Eli, that he might suffer some permanent physical damage as a result of his concussion.  And I was afraid of the long term impact that this might have on our family. 
Then, I began reading "Fearless, a Catholic women's guide to spiritual warfare".   It told me not to be afraid, to trust God, to submit to his will in all things, and that he is in charge.
I needed to be reminded of these things.  I like to tackle problems head on, to do something, to find a solution, to fix things.  Sometimes, I just need to let go and let God.
In the book Fearless, the author tells us that fear comes from the devil not from God.  She tells us that fear is a matter of spiritual warfare.  But, we have a guardian angel, the Church founded by Jesus, and the sacraments he initiated to help us through these crises.  She encourages us to look to scripture for answers to these problems.  And she mentions several instances in her life where she did this.  While I read scripture, often I am slow to turn to it for answers when I face either physical or spiritual crises in my family.  In the future, I plan on looking to God's word more often when I am struggling with a crisis.  And I plan to talk to God about my fears and my worries. 
To fight fear from the evil one, we must put on the armor of God and strengthen our faith which is the critical shield in our armor.  Then, our spiritual backbone will be prepared for the inevitable next crisis.  But, if our faith is weak, we will be vulnerable to the attacks of the devil.
 The devil loves to attack families.  He especially tries to get us to question our faith because of the difficulties we are facing.  It may be our physical suffering or that of our family members.  Or he may attack us through problems that we are facing at work, in our marriage, or in raising our children.  He also attacks us through the faith, or lack thereof, of those closest to us.   He attacks us by encouraging us to worry about problems in our nation and our church, which we have virtually no control over.   
Today is Fathers' day.  Fathers have a special responsibility to protect their families from both physical and spiritual harm.   So, I encourage all fathers to put on the armor of faith and to defend their families from the wickedness and snares of the devil, namely, the lies that our society is selling, to all of us and especially to our children.   Do not be afraid.  Turn to Jesus and to his Church.  Trust that your family will find peace and joy in Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.