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제목 Three enemies: the Flesh, the World and the Devil (2017-09-10)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2017-09-11

On Spiritual warfare (Three enemies: the Flesh, the World and the Devil)

My dear brethren,

“No man can serve two masters” (Mt. 6:24): there are two incompatible masters, who strive for the ownership of our souls: Christ and the devil through money. Christ will have the last word in that battle, through His Resurrection. At Calvary, the devil thought he had won, but in fact he has lost the battle against sin, not having been able to deceive our Lord Jesus Christ; and Christ’s victory over sin became the cause of the victory over death on the day of the Resurrection, which marks the complete victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over the devil.

Now we cannot avoid that battle: and often our own soul is the battleground. We can feel these two tendencies within ourselves, as St Paul said today: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would” (Gal. 5:17). This battle is not only a revealed truth, it is a fact of daily experience. We must take sides, we cannot remain indifferent. If we do not go up, we go down; if we do not take the side of the spirit, we fall on the side of the flesh. If we do not deliberately and lovingly serve Christ, we end up serving the devil, being the slave of the love of money and earthly things. We must choose!

The Church teaches that we have three enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil.

The first enemy is the enemy within: our own  flesh rebels against our spirit. This was not so when God created Adam, but it is the consequence of original sin and of our own past sins. St Thomas Aquinas calls it the “wound” of sin. Each sin has three consequences: darkness of the soul, due punishment and a wound in our soul. The first consequence of sin is the darkness of the soul: this is the privation of sanctifying grace, like privation of light: this is the evil will turned away from God, loving the creature more than the Creator: this is the state of sin itself. The second is that by sin we incur a debt: a punishment is due to the sinner, because God cannot let evil have the last word and prevail: so, the ultimate word will always belong to God. If a created will choose evil, it will have to be compensated by a due punishment, either inflicted by self in penance or by God Himself.

And the third consequence of sin is the wound of sin: this is the evil inclination to fall again. Thus, for instance, the one who drank too much and became drunk will have a tendency to drink again too much; the one who lied will find the second lie easier and the third one even easier and thus he builds the evil personality trait of lying. Original sin had wounded our nature, and thus we find in our own human nature a tendency to selfishness, a tendency to excessive pleasures, a tendency to disorderly anger and many other evil tendencies against which we must fight.

Wherever we go and through our whole life we find this enemy within, the rebellion of our flesh against the spirit. Often, we tend to blame others for the wrong that we do, when in fact it comes from our own selves. St Paul describes today these “deeds of the flesh”: “fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Gal. 5:19-21). And he warns us very clearly: “Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). These last words make it very clear that we MUST fight against our own flesh, against these evil inclinations, wounds of our sins.

How to fight? As our Lord taught us: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23). Self-denial, mortification is an essential part of a true Christian life: the example of all the Saints is there to teach us this great truth. Give me a Saint who was not mortified and I will say you can go to Heaven without mortification! When we read their lives, we are rather frightened at the depth of their mortification. But then, let us consider the victories they had over their flesh, over the world and over the devil! They were united with our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, and as a consequence they were united with Him in His victory over sin and over death.

The second enemy is the world: all the fascination of the exterior goods, especially money and riches, the glamour and vanities of the world, fashions, success, power, fame… how many eagerly search for these goods as if true happiness was there! And how many sin flow from that: jealousy, envy, frauds, thefts, usury, immodesties and scandals, etc. They do not see how vain such external goods are: they should be mere means, not the goal of life; they are passing goods, not everlasting goods; they do not make good the person who has them, because they are exterior to him.

Here again, one must fight against the disorderly appetite of such exterior goods, against the spirit of the world. St John gives a stark warning: “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15). And St James says the same thing: “Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God” (Jam. 4:4).

On the contrary, our Lord Jesus Christ said in the holy Gospel: “If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15:19). Hence St John says: “Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you” (1 Jn. 3:13). But don’t worry: “Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For according to these things did their fathers to the prophets” (Lk. 6:22-23).

The third enemy is the devil. St Peter says plainly: “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The very name of “Satan” means “adversary” in Hebrew. Here there is a common error: some people accuse the devil to be responsible for all evil, as if that would excuse them from sin. Though the devil is certainly cause of some evils, especially the big ones, he is not the only cause: there are sins that are fully our own responsibility, especially sins of the flesh. It would be insane to accuse the devil of our laziness, etc. It is true that the devil sometimes encourages us to fall in the sins of the flesh, but he himself has only contempt for this kind of sins, because being a pure spirit, he has no flesh.

The typical sins inspired by the devil are those sins involving destruction for destruction sake, such as revolutions, but also mutilations such as transgenders do to themselves with absolutely no personal profit. You find the devil often involved with drugs, modern music, superstitions, fortune-tellers, new age, etc. You find also the devil much involved in Freemasonry, which follows his rebellion: “I shall not serve” (Jer. 2:20). In their refusal of any law above man, of all the Laws of God, including the natural law, there is a loud echo of the Devil’s rebellion against God. The whole rebellion of modern countries against the social Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ is due to this influence of the Devil through Freemasons.

So, we must fight against these three foes a fierce battle. “The life of man upon earth is a warfare” (Job 7:1). And how must we fight? St Peter teaches us that we should resist the devil, “strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:9). Indeed, St John says: “this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4).

How does our Faith give us victory? First by opening our eyes onto the spiritual and eternal goods that are promised to us as a reward of fidelity, it detaches our hearts from lower things and attracts us to the heavenly goods. This is what we ask in the postcommunion of the feast of the Sacred Heart: “May these holy mysteries give us, o Lord, divine fervour, through which, having tasted the sweetness of thy most kind Heart, we may learn to despise earthly things and love heavenly goods!” Note that this postcommunion has been suppressed in the New Mass. St Peter says: “purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9): faith purifies our heart because it lifts it up towards the spiritual goods, the pure goods of heaven. “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).

Also, faith purifies our heart because it shows the everlasting punishments of sin, thus powerfully refraining us from sin. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are very strong to help us against temptation: “if thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. And if thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter lame into life everlasting, than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out. It is better for thee with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God, than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished” (Mk. 9:42-47). Faith makes manifest how vain the things of this world are. Thus, our Lord says: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mt. 16:26). It is useful to learn by heart these and other Gospel verses, that will strengthen us against the flesh, the world and the devil in time of temptation.

Also, faith leads us to prayer: right away we beg the good Lord to help us, we cry for help, and we persevere in this cry for help: and the Good Lord will help those who ask from Him nothing else but to remain faithful to Him. We ask our Lady and all the Saints to intercede for us, not for earthly benefits, but in order to imitate them in their victory over the flesh, the world and the devil. And they will help us. Because our Lord Jesus Christ wants our salvation much more than we want it: we “have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4), but He died on the Cross for our salvation, that is how much He wants it. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation” (Mt. 6:13), which would be better translated in English as “make that we do not succumb to temptation; lead us out of temptation;” “not into” means here “out of”.

We fight “strong in the Faith” also by publicly confessing the faith. St Thomas Aquinas teaches that there are two acts of Faith: first the interior act of believing, of adhering with our intelligence to the revealed truth as taught by God through the Church, and secondly the exterior act of confessing publicly that faith. Look at the Apostles on Pentecost day: they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and then they started without fear to profess the Faith, to teach publicly our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Saviour of the world. There is need of that courage of public profession of faith, especially in the fight against the world, fight for the social kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Too often Catholics are afraid to profess the faith, to explain it to their friends and neighbours, even more to their foes. But by the Sacrament of Confirmation, we became soldiers of Christ and make His Kingdom advance precisely by professing our faith without fear.

Here is one important aspect of the crisis of the Church: many Catholics today prefer putting in silence the points of faith which heretics deny in order to give an appearance of agreement. The 500th anniversary of Luther is in our days the occasions of so many such compromises and silences that are properly scandalous: because it does not honour the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also because it leaves these poor people in the darkness of their errors instead of giving them the light of the truth faith.
And here is another crucial point: we do not profess the faith in order to condemn our neighbour, far from it! It is rather in order to save them. Our Lord came for that purpose, to save us from our sins (Mt. 1:21); freely we have received, freely we must give (Mt. 10:8). Therefore, in our turn we must work for the salvation of our neighbour, with the same kind heart as Jesus. Thus, St Paul says that “faith… worketh by charity” (Gal. 5:6). The profession of faith gives the light to the mind, but charity wins the hearts; without charity faith is dead and “profiteth nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2). But with charity, Faith can move mountains. Hence today, St Paul places charity as the first fruit of the Holy Ghost: “the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

That spiritual warfare could frighten us, but we are not alone. Alone we could not overcome; but with our Lord Jesus Christ we can. “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Thus St Paul says: “in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us” (Rom. 8:37). “Thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death” (Apoc. 12:11).

We are much encouraged in that spiritual warfare by the example and the prayers of the Saints, as St Paul says: “therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us” (Heb. 12:1). By their faith and charity, the Saints have converted so many souls, and overcome so many obstacles, temptations from within: see St Francis throwing himself in a bush of thorn to overcome temptations from the flesh. Saints have overcome tremendous pressures from the world: see St Thomas More, chancellor of England who prefers to die beheaded rather than betray the true faith. Saints have overcome the devil: see the holy Curé of Ars, who was molested by the devil because of all the souls he was freeing from him, but each time he overcame, and brought thousands of souls out of the clutches of the devil back onto the track of salvation.

The best example and the most powerful aid in that spiritual warfare is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is immaculate in her Conception, by a very special privilege of our Lord Jesus Christ; but after that she remained perfectly Immaculate throughout her whole life by a full cooperation with the grace of the Holy Ghost, so well that she never did the least venial sin: and this is her Immaculate Heart. She has been assumed into heaven, thus receiving much power to help all of us to remain faithful to the grace of the Holy Ghost, faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, filled with the charity that the Holy Ghost pours into our souls (Rom. 5:5). Like Judith cutting the head of Holofernes, so she crushed the head of the antique serpent, and is strong as an army in battle array. Indeed, the Canticle sings: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” (Cant. 6:9). One recognises the “Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc. 12:1), the Mother of the Saviour, since her Son is the one announced as the Messiah (psalm 2, compare Ps. 2:9 and Apoc. 12:5).

So, my dear brethren, let us take courage, fight against sin with no compromise, practice the virtues of the saints with perseverance, especially that of charity, following their example and under their protection, so that we may be crowned with glory in Heaven after having properly fought the good fight as St Paul (1 Tim. 6:12). Amen.

Fr. F. Laiseny