Successful soldiers and athletes know that knowledge of their enemy of opponent is a key to their victory in battle and success on the playing field. A baseball pitcher studies the batter with a fine-tooth-comb detecting the batter’s weakness. If the batter can hit a fastball, then the pitcher will kick in gear and throw him a curve-ball or a change of pace, any pitch at all to strike him out! The same principle can be applied to the army at war. Where there is an opening and weakness—go for the kill! Let us apply this to our spiritual life!
Classical spiritual theology delineates three basic enemies in our spiritual life: the devil, the flesh, and the world! To be a Christian is to be a soldier and to be in battle array. In fact, the constant state of the Christian is warfare! The Sacrament of Confirmation commissions us to fight the good fight, run the good race, and to spread and defend the faith, sometimes even at the cost of our life’s blood, as in the case of the martyrs! Therefore, let us confront these three major enemies—the devil, the flesh and the world and with the help of God’s grace prove victorious!
THE DEVIL. Satan, Lucifer, the Prince of this world, liar and murderer from the beginning— all of these are titles given for the devil in the Bible. St. Ignatius calls the devil the enemy of our human nature; St Thomas Aquinas calls him the tempter; St. Augustine depicts him as an angry dog on a chain ready for the attack; St. Peter views him as a roaring lion seeking he whom he can devour. All of these names and titles point to the malice of the person of the devil.
HIS STRATEGY! To conquer the devil we must be keenly aware of his strategy—a few key words of advice! First, the devil never rests nor goes on vacation. He works 24/7! His work terminates once we are terminated by death. Second, when we are in a state of DESOLATION (according to St. Ignatius of Loyola) then it is that the devil launches his fiery arrows to shoot and kill. The state of desolation means when we feel a lack of faith, hope, charity, lazy and tepid, depressed and discouraged, and ready to throw in the towel and simply give up! That is the “prime-time” of the devil! Third, know your KRYPTONITE! Superman was fearless, omnipotent and victorious always, except when he was exposed to KRYPTONITE—that was his undoing and demise! We all have our own kryptonite. The devil knows our kryptonite because he studies every step we take and is an excellent psychologist. He can anticipate and predict our future falls and he sets timely traps! Beg the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your own kryptonite; ask your Confessor or Spiritual Director!
THE FLESH. The devil tempts us from without; the flesh rebels from within! As a result of Original Sin we all have a fallen human nature which St. Thomas Aquinas calls concupiscence. St. Paul often reminds us of the inner battle that wages within us between the flesh and the spirit. The great Apostle himself expressed the battle he himself waged, saying that the good that he desired to do he would end up by doing the opposite. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus warned the Apostles: “Stay awake and pray so that you will not be put to the test; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The flesh can be summarized and narrowed down to the seven capital sins— these disordered tendencies, proclivities, or inclinations that tug us toward sin. They are: gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, anger, envy and pride. If we do not conquer these tendencies through the grace of God we will be slaves indeed Jesus said that sin is slavery; however, if they are conquered we experience peace and the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.
THE WORLD. Of the three enemies the world is the most insidious, crafty, and extremely dangerous. The world in which we live and in which we are surrounded strives to deceive us into believing that true, eternal, and ever-lasting happiness can be found and realized here on earth. In other words the earth is our utopia! Jesus promised the opposite! In this life you will have struggles and battles and Jesus even said that we will be hated and persecuted and possibly put to death even by our family members. Even Jesus was tempted by the devil who offered Him the world! (Mt. 4) Our Lady of Lourdes told the seer St. Bernadette that true happiness could not be found in this world. Heaven is our true and permanent home; In the meantime we are pilgrims and wayfarers heading towards our final destiny! The world and all it offers is extremely tricky and deceitful! It clings to us. It can seep in almost like osmosis. Like walking down a dusty street, the dust descends upon us almost unawares. That is the world. Listen to some typical worldly sayings that are diametrically opposed the true Gospel values! “Live it up!” “You’ve got one life to live: live it up!” “Eat, drink, and be merry!” “Get all the GUSTO out of life!” “It is Miller- time!” “I got to be free; I got to be me; I got to do my own thing!” “Even Stephen!” “Let’s give him some of his own medicine!” “Just go for it—now!” At Restaurants the typical one-word flowing smoothly from the mouth of the waitress says it all ENJOY!!!!
DAILY EXAMEN OF ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA. For that reason the daily examen of conscience of St. Ignatius of Loyola is paramount if indeed we can prove victorious in pulling off the true mask of worldliness in our lives and opt for choosing and following the Gospel values and to walk in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! A thorough examination of our actions, motivations and intentions in the light of the Gospel can keep us on the straight and narrow path!
COURAGE! My friends in Christ! If God is with us who can be against us. The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Jesus promises words of victory: “Take courage I have conquered the world; I will be with you always even until the end of the world.” Let us fight side by side with Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph and the victory over the devil, the flesh and the world will be ours!