Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spiritual Combat (Sunday homily)

Sorry, I'm a little late in posting ("yeah, over a month late, Father!"), sorry about that! Lots going on. Each parish has big projects underway: two construction projects planned at St. Mary: a new gym floor and a new roof on the school; St. Boniface Church is being renovated, to re-open Easter; we are having an outreach to our parishioners this Sunday: volunteers are going out visit their fellow parishioners, simply to greet them and see if they are doing OK. And in April, we have a parish mission (April 9-13) with Father Nathan Cromley. All that on top of normal parish and school business.

Here are bullet-points from my homily Sunday, for which I had no text:

> I proposed a theme of "spiritual combat" to look at in relation to the readings.
> I talked about the incongruity of almost everyone, who is surveyed, professing belief in God, but something less believe in the existence of the devil. Yet I think I would have an easier time proving the existence of the devil than of God. Why? We often ask, "where is God?" The Scriptures are full of that expression. But who needs me to prove evil exists? How does one explain such colossal evil, such as the gulags and the Holocaust?
> Notice how our Lord prepared for spiritual combat: he fasted. Odd, that; a soldier wouldn't do that before battle, would he? But this is different. Our Lord first conquered the distraction of hunger. We fast for the same reason: we learn in giving things up just how much power those things have for us. Am I the only one who thinks of a hamburger on a Friday during Lent (laughter); apparently not! But is the flag I'm going to live and die for? The hamburger?
> Notice that the devil is excellent in argument and he can quote Scripture. If we try to debate with temptation, we will lose.
> Not only do we sometimes underestimate the power of evil, we sometimes overstate it. Notice the devil did not know who Jesus was: "If you are the Son of God..." He was trying to find out who this Jesus really was; and notice Jesus did not fall for his tricks and left the devil knowing no more than before. The devil is more powerful than we are, alone; but we are never alone! When we were baptized, we are clothed in the armor of Christ, who stands with us and enlists us in his work. When we are overwhelmed in temptation, we turn and look over our shoulder and ask, "Lord, please help me!" And he speaks the word, "begone!"
> We may not realize we are in spiritual combat, but we are--all the time. The outcome, in one sense, is certain: Christ has won; and yet the outcome for many souls, and for our own, is not. The altar is a battlefield: Christ our champion goes into combat for souls and he calls us here because we aren't mere spectators, he counts us to join the battle. Example: a woman called the parish office just over a week ago, Sister ran in and said, "you have to take this call" and so I did. She told me she was going to have an abortion, she didn't know what to do. I began talking to her, to calm her down and I wanted to get her going in the right direction. Then the line went dead. I didn't have her number to call her back. I don't know what happened. Do you think I have been praying for that woman since then? Do you think there's spiritual combat going on?
> I addressed a point to men, specifically: you have sisters, girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters. Would any of you turn to them and let them go into battle in your place? Of course you wouldn't. Yet notice that is exactly what Adam did in the first reading. He stood there while his wife was under assault and said, and did, nothing. How different it might have been had he simply spoken up! Men, you are here; you recognize your spiritual responsibilities and I commend you. But we know that when we gather for Mass or other prayer, a lot of our men are absent; they are letting others go into combat in their place.
> I don't recall just how I concluded my homily, except to talk about bringing the people and cares for which we are doing battle, to the altar, to ask Christ's power and intercession for them.

I gave this homily four times, and it was a little different each time as you might imagine.


mamacantrix said...

Thank you for posting...I suppose this is permission to borrow a point? :)

In all seriousness, though, the 9 am version was great. Bringing our families back into line with God's plan is a crucial step in bringing our parish, church, and world closer to Christ. You made the point well. (Deuteronomy 30:19!)

Fr Martin Fox said...

Thanks Mama!

Feel free to borrow any of it.

Jon Paul Hebert said...

I thought your points were well made. I especially liked your comments about how Satan is wise...wise enough to tempt Jesus with hunger and self doubt at the perfect time when he was most hungry. Wise enough to quote Scripture (God's Word) to God himself in an attempt to confound Jesus.

I did have a question about a point you made. You suggested that Satan did not know if Jesus was God specifically in the passage where Satan says, "If you are God, then turn these stones to bread..." Are there other supporting passages or Traditions that suggest this interpretation?

When I read the text, I am struck with the idea that it seems Satan is tempting Jesus with self-doubt. It seems that if the demons know who Jesus is, certainly Satan himself would know who he is, right?

What are your thoughts?

Fr Martin Fox said...


What are my thoughts? I think you're fired!

Just kidding!

Seriously, I realize others might reach a different conclusion, but I see nothing in Scripture that clearly answers the question whether Satan knew Jesus to be divine. It's not even clear that calling him "Son of God" meant that; it may have only meant, "Messiah"--which I think the devil certainly wanted to know. There are other passages where demons say, "we know who you are: the Holy One of God"; again, does that mean they know Jesus to be divine, or do they know him to be the Messiah? I think the latter.

But can I absolutely prove I'm right? No. My reasoning is that it makes no sense for the devil to think he can tempt the Almighty, but it does make sense for him to seduce a merely human Messiah. After all, the devil would know that God doesn't need the enemy to deliver all the kingdoms of the world to him.

But that's my reasoning, I could be wrong. My larger point--that the devil isn't all-knowing, certainly remains true, even if I am wrong in how I read this passage.