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Spiritual Warfare: Time to Build The Tower and Take the Field of Battle
By Deacon Keith Fournier
September 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. (Jesus)
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The Gospel reading of today's Mass offers vital insight as we stand on the precipice of the collapse of the moral infrastructure of the Nation and the brink of a military conflagration in Syria. It is time to calculate the cost, build the tower and engage the struggle of the age.
We are in the midst of immense spiritual warfare.
On Sundays we receive the local paper at my home. As someone who understands that newspapers are outdated modes of communication, I am old enough that I still enjoy the old custom of Sunday morning coffee over an old fashioned paper. I awakened this morning and looked forward to reading the paper and drinking a leisurely cup of my wife's wonderful coffee on a beautiful Sunday morning before Mass.
It did not happen the way I had planned.
The front page pointed to one of the fronts in the struggle of our age, the culture. My friend EW Jackson, a dedicated, African American Evangelical Pastor running for the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, was featured in the banner article right across the top of the front page. The article was not very informational and did not do this good man justice. It also did not help the public in an upcoming election of great significance.
I have written several articles about this good man. The most recent can be read here. He is a defender of the right to life at every age and stage, of true marriage and the family and society founded upon it, of religious freedom, economic freedom, parental choice in education and truly good governance. In short, he is a political candidate who deserves to be brought to attention of the voting public.
However, in the main position on the same front page of the newspaper, right below the smaller banner, was a huge photo of two women kissing in the presence of a Justice of the peace and the headline "Marital mecca". It featured a propaganda piece extolling the activity of a Clerk of the peace in Delaware who presides over homosexual and lesbian civil 'marriages' for service members in Delaware.
It was interesting to note that both stories carried over inside on the same page. However, the propaganda piece on same sex 'marriage' was significantly larger, prominently positioned and filled with doting anecdotes and photos obviously intending to support this new front in the current cultural revolution.
Then, on the day after the historic and global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and the Middle East led by Pope Francis, there was nothing - not a word. In fact, there was not much anywhere. Oh, there was plenty preceding the event. Some of which was overtly hostile, like the 'report" of Mark Phillips of CBS on their Friday morning show.
It was an anti-Catholic hit piece which referred to the global day of prayer and fasting called for - and then led - by the Holy Father as a religious street protest. The utter disdain for the Catholic Church in that report became clearer when my wife and I joined millions in participating in the event over EWTN and saw the beauty, the dignity and the irresistible power of a Church praying for peace. To call this beautiful plea for God's mercy on the whole world a "religious street protest" was worse than ludicrous, it was despicable.
The newspaper stories this morning, the coverage of the day of prayer and fasting, the growing intolerance of Christians of every ilk in a culture losing its moral compass, all provide the background for our own response to the timeless prudence presented by the teaching of Jesus in this Gospel text from St. Luke's account:
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33)
We have a tower to build and a lot of work to do. We must calculate the cost.We are engaged in a spiritual war for the souls of men and women; indeed the very survival of the Nation we love may hang in the balance. However, we mustalways remember that the struggle is at root, a spiritual one. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood; but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:12,13)
He wrote to the Christians in Corinth: For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:4,5)
This struggle we are engaged in as Christians in contemporary western culture involves a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom. Remember, in the circles of cultural and social revolutionaries, Christians (at least orthodox, clasical faithful ones) are often presented as unenlightened, allegedly forcing our view on others.
In reality, our positions on the dignity of every life, marriage, family, authentic freedom and the nature of truth as objective, is what actually frees people from the bondage of disordered appetites. These truths are objectively true for all men and women. We were made for relationship. We were structured for authentic love and human flourishing within family and a society founded upon family.
The early Church, just like the Church in our day, was sent into cultures filled with people who thought they were extremely advanced in light of the arts and sciences of their day. Yet, these cultures practiced primitive forms of abortion and even exposure, a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders. To them, freedom was rooted in a notion of power over others and the right to do as they chose.
One has only to read the ancient Christian manuscripts such as the Letter to Diognetus, the accounts of Justin Martyr or many other early Christian sources to read of cultures like the one in which we live today. These were also cultures of use where people were treated as property - cultures of excess where freedom was perceived as a power over others and unrestrained license masqueraded as liberty, leading many to what the Apostle Paul called the slavery of sin.
Our contemporary culture is increasingly pagan. Many of the gods and goddesses of the old pagan regimes promoted lives of selfish excess, homosexual practices, and hedonism masquerading as freedom. The myths they told concerning them had these gods acting in much the same way. The arguments have been reintroduced today, only the myths, tributes and statues are different.
The early Christians did not point the finger and rail against the pagans of their age when they sought to effect the conversion of those cultures. They did not present a negative message. They proclaimed the freedom found in Jesus Christ to all who would listen and demonstrated it in their compelling witness of life.
They lived in monogamous marriages, raised their children to be faithful Christians and good citizens, and went into the world of their age, offering a new way to live. This "way" (which is what they first called the early Church) presented a very different worldview than the one that the pagans embraced.
With joy and integrity, the early Christians , spoke and lived a different way in the midst of that pagan culture. As a result, they sometimes stirred up hostility. Some of them were martyred in the red martyrdom of shed blood. Countless more joined the train of what use to be called white martyrdom, by living lives of sacrificial witness and service in the culture, working hard and staying faithful to the end of a long life spent in missionary toil.
Slowly, not only were small numbers of pagans converted and baptized, but eventually their leaders and entire Nations followed suit. Resultantly, the Christian worldview began to influence the social order. The "clash of freedoms" continued, but the climate changed significantly.
It was the Christian faith, lifestyle and practices of those Christians that began to win the hearts of men and women. The cultures once enshrined to pagan practices, such as plural marriage, active homosexual practice, exposure and abortion began to change dramatically and this dynamic continued for centuries.
It was Christianity that taught such novel concepts as the dignity of every person and their equality before the One God. The Christians proclaimed the dignity of women, the dignity of chaste marriage and the sanctity of the family.
It was Christianity that introduced the understanding of freedom not simply as a freedom from, but as a freedom for living responsibly and with integrity. The Christians insisted that freedom must be exercised with reference to a moral code, a law higher than the emperor or the shifting sands of public opinion.
It was the Christians who understood that choice, rightly exercised, meant always choosing what was right and that the freedom to exercise that choice brought with it an obligation and concern for the other. For example, the Christians chose, when others fled from the devastation of the plagues, to stay in the cities to care for the sick and the dying.
Their faith presented a coherent and compelling answer to the existential questions that plagued the ancients, such as why we existed and how we got here. What was the purpose of life? Questions like how evil came into the world and why we could not always make right choices? What force seemed to move us toward evil and how we could be set free from its power?
Christian philosophy began to flourish and the arts also flourished under the Christian worldview. Philosophies of government and economic theory began to be influenced by these principles derived from a Christian worldview. Now, we are called to transform our own American and western culture from within once again.
We must build the tower. We must enter the field of battle. We must be faithful citizens, run for office, and never give up our struggles in the courtroom, the classroom, or the marketplace of commerce, all for the true common good. Our social and cultural mission is not an option. We cannot retreat to religious ghettos, figuratively or literally.
Our mission to the culture lies at the heart of what it means to be leaven, light, salt and the soul of the world as the early Christians taught. However, we do need to remember that the task we face is first, at root, a spiritual struggle that will first be won in prayer, stepped into a new Christian missionary movement by the compelling witness of a vibrant, orthodox, faithful Christianity that is culturally engaging, relevant and compelling to the new pagans of our age.
The contemporary re-emergence of ancient paganism is not the path to authentic human freedom and flourishing but to misery. The Christian understanding of the dignity of every human life and the truth about marriage and family is not some outdated notion of a past era but the framework for a future of true freedom. We are living in a new missionary age.
The Christian Way of Life transformed Christianity from being a small sect into becoming the major dominating faith of the age. It transformed the world of the First Millennium and the Second. It can and it will do the same in the Third Millennium. We cannot - we must not - we will not - retreat from the culture.
We must lay out the parts. We need a tower from which we can shout out the liberating truth to an age which has succumbed to so many lies. A tower from which we can see the field of struggle which lies before us and chart the course, moving forward to a future of authentic human freedom and flourishing.
Let us pray for one another, that we may be strong and courageous in the struggle which lies ahead. It is time to build the tower. It is time to take the field and engage the struggle.
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