Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Defeating The Forces of Evil

Reading the news, it would be very easy to live our lives today in a constant state of fear.

War seems to be everywhere, and it is seldom reported by our major news services.  For example, there have been over 170,000 people killed in Syria since 2011.  That is just one country.

There are the horrifying crimes against humanity being committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

There is Boko Haram in Africa basically mirroring ISIS.

Israel and the Palestinians have been going at each other and threatening to escalate into all out war.

Russia seem ready to declare war in the Ukraine, which is also a threat against NATO.  We are now hearing that Russia is planning "nuke exercises", which sounds ominous to say the least.

Ebola is killing hundreds of people in Africa and threatening to become a worldwide epidemic.

We have the unbelievable mess on the US southern border with tens of thousands of illegals streaming into the US.

Next week is the anniversary of 9/11 which is always a very anxious time here in New York.  And now we have a news report that says 11 jet airliners were hijacked from the Tripoli airport in Libya and there are fears they will be used in terrorist attacks next week on 9/11 [HERE].  From that report:
Intelligence reports of the stolen jetliners were distributed within the U.S. government over the past two weeks and included a warning that one or more of the aircraft could be used in an attack later this month on the date marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, said U.S. officials familiar with the reports.
As a New Yorker who lived through 9/11/2001, this does not help me sleep better at night.

As a Catholic, I am also very concerned by the actions of many of my fellow Catholics.

We have modernists who pick and choose what they like about Catholicism, basically creating their own religion by rejecting everything with which they personally disagree.  They seem to be intent on making the Church into a toothless lion, jettisoning any teaching that is not "politically correct."

On the other end of the spectrum, we have traditionalists whose main occupation in life seems to be to find fault with the hierarchy of the Church.  If they don't like something they see or hear, they get on the Internet to tell everyone that the Church is going to hell in a handbasket.  They scrutinize and pick apart every word and action of Pope Francis and the bishops.  They are, in effect, their own magesterium and, as far as they are concerned, anyone who does not agree with them is a heretic and apostate Catholic.  As I have already stated elsewhere, I am truly concerned about a major schism.

How do we, who claim to be the children of God, deal with all of this?  Just what should we be doing to combat the evil around us and not become a part of it?

I felt that the Office of Readings from Tuesday, September 2, gave some really beautiful lessons on how to cope with the evil times in which we live.  It started with Psalm 37, one of favorite Psalms:
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not envy those who do evil:
for they wither quickly like grass
and fade like the green of the fields.

If you trust in the Lord and do good,
then you will live in the land and be secure.
If you find your delight in the Lord,
he will grant your heart’s desire.

. . .

Calm your anger and forget your rage;
do not fret, it only leads to evil.
For those who do evil shall perish;
the patient shall inherit the land.

A little longer–and the wicked shall have gone.
Look at his place, he is not there.
But the humble shall own the land
and enjoy the fullness of peace.
I especially love the antiphon associated with this psalm:
Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.
This is followed by the next antiphon:
Turn away from evil, learn to do God’s will; the Lord will strengthen you if you obey him.
The Office of Readings then continues with Psalm 37:
The wicked man plots against the just
and gnashes his teeth against him;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked
for he sees that his day is at hand.

The sword of the wicked is drawn,
his bow is bent to slaughter the upright.
Their sword shall pierce their own hearts
and their bows shall be broken to pieces.
. . .
He protects the lives of the upright,
their heritage will last for ever.
They shall not be put to shame in evil days,
in time of famine their food shall not fail.

But the wicked shall perish
and all the enemies of the Lord.
They are like the beauty of the meadows,
they shall vanish, they shall vanish like smoke.
. . .
I was young and now I am old,
but I have never seen the just man forsaken
nor his children begging for bread.
All the day he is generous and lends
and his children become a blessing.
. . .
The unjust shall be wiped out for ever
and the children of the wicked destroyed.
The just shall inherit the land;
there they shall live forever.
I found the next antiphon very reassuring and comforting:
Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way.
We as humans are always fretting and trying to figure out ways we can overcome the evil and hardships in our lives. But as Christians, all we need to do is "Wait on the Lord." However, waiting does not mean doing nothing. It means going to Our Lord and placing all of our needs, wants and concerns into His Hands, and then following through in the way He leads.

An example of this is Mother Teresa. In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Mother Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas. She did not do this through her own strength or her own reasoning. There can be no doubt she brought this to Our Lord in prayer, and then did not hesitate to follow in the way in which she was guided by the Holy Spirit with no equivocation and no fear.

Mother Teresa with one of the
37 children she rescued in Beirut
Back to the Office of Readings, we continue with Psalm 37:
The just man’s mouth utters wisdom
and his lips speak what is right;
the law of his God is in his heart,
his steps shall be saved from stumbling.
The wicked man watches for the just
and seeks occasion to kill him.
The Lord will not leave him in his power
nor let him be condemned when he is judged.

Then wait for the Lord, keep to his way.
It is he who will free you from the wicked,
raise you up to possess the land
and see the wicked destroyed.

I have seen the wicked triumphant,
towering like a cedar of Lebanon.
I passed by again; he was gone.
I searched; he was nowhere to be found.

See the just man, mark the upright,
for the peaceful man a future lies in store,
but sinners shall all be destroyed.
No future lies in store for the wicked.

The salvation of the just comes from the Lord,
their stronghold in time of distress.
The Lord helps them and delivers them
and saves them: for their refuge is in him.
What separates the "just" man from the "wicked" man?  Those whom the Lord calls "just" place all of their trust and hope in him.  They do not look to their own reasoning and do not rely on their own strength.  The just man or woman realizes, as our Lord said, that we have nothing to fear from those who can only harm our bodies.  They also realize that to glorify God means to allow Him to do our fighting for us.  That is the definition of "waiting" on the Lord.

The just man realizes that there is only one place where salvation - be it physical or spiritual - can be found. And that is with Our Lord. It is not in other men, and it is not in ourselves. The Psalm Prayer of the Office of Readings brings this out:
You proclaimed the poor to be blessed, Lord Jesus, for the kingdom of heaven is given to them. Fill us generously with your gifts. Teach us to put our trust in the Father and to seek his kingdom first of all rather than imitate the powerful and envy the rich.
As we look around our beleaguered world, it seems that good is being crushed and evil is winning. We need to remember this is just how it looked at Calvary when Our Lord was crucified on the Cross, so beaten and scourged that He barely looked like a human being. But it was precisely at this point that evil was being completely defeated. Death was defeated by the death of the Righteous One.

The first reading in the Office of Readings was from Jeremiah 20:7-18 - "The prophet's anxieties."  In this passage, Jeremiah voices his worries and anxieties about his situation.  But he realizes that the Lord will fight for him and rescue him.  The Responsory following this reading summarizes as follows:
I hear the whispered threats of those who were my friends;
now they watch for my downfall and say:
Perhaps we can deceive him,
and then we shall have him in our power
and take our revenge.
But you, Lord, are a mighty warrior,
always at my side
I hear the whisperings of the crowd,
threats from every side as they plot to take my life.
But you, Lord, are a mighty warrior, always at my side.
There are dark storm clouds surrounding us on every side.  Evil seems to be ruling the day and crushing the good and holy.  But Our Lord is always there with us.  Jesus Christ Himself suffered unjustly and mercilessly at the hands of evil.  But He did this so that we might be freed from this evil.  If we belong to Christ, we must be willing to do the same.

The movie, "For Greater Glory" was about the intense persecution of the Catholic Church by the Masonic Mexican government in the early 20th  Century.  Father Robert Barron talked about this film and how we, as Catholics, should react to evil and violence and unjust aggressors.

Father Barron says in this video:
"If we have confidence in the Power of the Cross and we're grounded in prayer, we can unleash this great resistance to the world. Not on the world's terms. Again, I understand it. I get it. When people are pushed against a wall, and there's such aggression thrown at them, that they respond in kind. But I think the Church should unleash its own dynamite. It should marshal its own power, which is the power of non-violent love. It doesn't mean acquiescence, it doesn't mean caving in. It means this provocative challenge to the violence of the world precisely through non violence."
Execution of  Saint Cristóbal Magallanes Jara
Father Barron then talks about the scene from "For Greater Glory" about the elderly priest played by the late Peter O'Toole who is martyred:
I think a very good example is Father Cristóbal Magallanes [canonized on May 21, 2000], played by Peter O'Toole. Old man, he is an old priest at the end of his life. And instead of taking up arms or fleeing - see, there is the fight/flight - he chose a third option, which is non-violent resistance. He knew, I think, that with this last great act of witness, he would strike a blow against this oppression. And so in his full Mass vestments and wearing his priestly biretta, there he stands against the wall and is put to death. That, too, is photographed. I think he knew that his last great act would be an act of witness against this terrible violence.
Now does this require enormous courage? Yes. Gandhi said it takes the courage of a warrior. Not the sword of a warrior, but the courage of a warrior, absolutely, to do this sort of work. I felt for a long time we are not good in training our people in non-violent resistance. But that is the way Christ is King.

Here is a beautiful video that includes the scene mentioned by Father Barron of  Father Cristóbal Magallanes' martyrdom from "For Greater Glory."  This scene involves Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río, who was also martyred by the Mexican government.  As Father says to Blessed José, "Who are you if you don't stand up for what you believe?  There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ. "  The heart wrenching scene of Blessed José's martyrdom is also shown in this video.

We need to wait on the Lord in the face of evil, and that means standing strong and allowing Him to work through us. We must not succumb to the ways of the world. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, as we see in these scenes with Saint Cristóbal Magallanes' and Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río. That is the way to peace, and that is the way to true salvation. "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)
Incorrupt feet of Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, who gave 
his life for the cause of Christ and his Church.

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