I GET KNOCKED DOWN… BUT I GET UP AGAIN! – THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 26

What does a child do when another child knocks him down?  He collapses on the floor, cries, and refuses to get up.  In some cases, he may retaliate against his offender.

What does a Christian do after he gets tempted to sin and then falls into that sin (anger, impatience, lust, pride…) ?  He collapses on the floor, cries, and refuses to get up.  In some cases, he may retaliate against the devil, who tricked him into this sin.  At least, that is what a ‘childish’ Christian does.

You see, just as we ‘grow up’ physically, mentally, emotionally, academically, career-wise, and otherwise, we are also supposed to ‘grow up’ spiritually.  We should not react as a mature Christian the way we reacted as children.  But so often that is the case.  Our leader gives us such training in this chapter on what to do after we get knocked down.

In essence, after ‘another child’ knocks him down (or more accurately, after he trips over his own feet), a Christian could respond like this: He gets right up again, he dusts off his clothes, he forgives whatever needs forgiving, and he moves forward with a peace about him that leads one to wonder if anything even went wrong in the first place.

What to do after a fall:
admit your fault;
beg the mercy of God;
thank Him for stopping you from falling further;
regain peace of heart;
move forward in the confidence that it’s over.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. 1 Corinthians 13:11

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Read the Spiritual Combat online here.

Read all of chapter 26 below.

To read previous posts on the Spiritual Combat, click here for the whole series.

Coming up next, chapter 27: on the plans of the devil for you.

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all of chapter 26:

When you feel yourself wounded from having weakly, or it may be even willfully and deliberately, fallen into some sin, be not over-fearful or over-anxious, but turn instantly to God, saying:

Behold, O Lord, what of myself I have done! And what, indeed, could be expected of me but falls?

And then, after a short pause, humble yourself in your own eyes, mourn over the offense committed against your Lord; and without falling into discouragement, be full of indignation against your evil passions, especially that which has occasioned your fall. Then say:

Nor even here, Lord, should I have stopped, if Your goodness had not withheld me.

And here give thanks to Him, and love Him more than ever, wondering at the excess of His mercy, Who, when you had so deeply offended Him, stretched out His right hand to save you from another fall.

Lastly, say, with great confidence in His infinite compassion:

Forgive me, Lord, for Your own sake; suffer me not to depart from You, nor to be separated from You, nor evermore to offend You.

And this done, do not sit down to consider whether God has pardoned you or not; for this is nothing else but pride, restlessness of mind, loss of time, and, under color of various fair pretexts, a delusion of the devil. But, committing yourself unreservedly to the merciful hands of God, pursue your exercise as if you had not fallen.

And if you should fall wounded many times in the day, repeat what I have taught you with no less faith the second, the third, and even the last time than the first; and despising yourself, and hating the sin more and more strive to lead henceforth a life of greater watchfulness.

This exercise is very displeasing to the devil, both because he sees it to be most acceptable to God and also because he is enraged to see himself overcome by one over whom he had been at first victorious. And therefore he seeks by many artful wiles to make us relinquish it; and, through our carelessness and lack of vigilance, he is but too often successful.

The harder therefore, this exercise may seem to you, the greater violence must you do to yourself, renewing it repeatedly even after a single fall.

And if after any fall you feel uneasy, distrustful, and confused in mind, the first thing to be done is to recover your peace and quietness of mind, and with it your confidence in God. Armed with these, turn again to the Lord; for your uneasiness on account of your sin arises not from the consideration of the offense against God, but of the injury to yourself.

To recover this peace, discard entirely from your mind the thought of your fall, and set yourself to meditate on the unspeakable goodness of God; how He is beyond measure ready and willing to forgive every sin, how grievous so-ever; calling the sinner by manifold ways and means to come to Him, that He may unite him to Himself in this life by His grace in order to his sanctification, and in the life to come by His glory for his eternal beatification.

And having quieted your mind by these and the like reflections, turn your thoughts once more to your fall, according to the instructions given you above.

Again, at the time of sacramental confession, to which I exhort you to have recourse frequently, call to mind all your falls, and with renewed sorrow and indignation at the offense against God, and renewed purpose never again to offend Him, disclose them with all sincerity to your spiritual father.

AT PEACE. AT ALL TIMES! REALLY? AT ALL TIMES? – SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 25

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – St. Paul to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 7.

Our leader, Dom Scupoli, declares in this 25th chapter (of 66 short chapters) that there is nothing that happens in this world that should disturb our interior peace.  Ridiculous!  He must be dreaming. … Nope.  He is simply claiming the promises of Holy Scripture.  How many times does Jesus speak to us: Peace.  Peace.  Peace.  Well let’s just say that one quick search of the New Testament showed that the word is used 523 times.  That’s a lot.

But we are hardly ever at peace.  People are troubled in their conscience about what decision to make.  People are stressed about their families.  We see violence and wars and tribulations (Jesus said they were coming).  We are afflicted by bad news and disease.  We even stub our toes from time to time.  We are hardly ever at peace.  In fact, we could probably count on our two hands the number of times we have said: “Ahhh… I am at perfect peace.”

So it flies in our face when our leader tells us that we should NEVER be not at peace… we should ALWAYS be at peace.  YIKES! Really?  Is that Christian spirituality?  Yes.  Again: The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

How can this be the case?  One very clear principle: Everything that happens is allowed by God to happen, therefore we are to accept it.  Take about 3 days to try to chew on that one, it’s a whopper of a bite.  Everything.  Accept everything.

1. If God expressly wills it, we are to accept it as His will.

2. If God allows it to happen, since He works everything for our good “Everything works for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28), then we are to accept it as His allowance.

You probably are thinking of any number of arguments to prove the above false.  What about violence… what about sin… what about disasters… how could a good God allow this or that… how could a good God allow my loved one to die… am I supposed to just sit around and let the world fall apart… there are any number of arguments.

To maintain peace of mind and heart in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15), a few things already must be in place.  You must have already decided by faith that God is ABSOLUTELY GOOD and that God is UNFAILINGLY SUCCESSFUL.  If you haven’t arrived at those conclusions, you probably won’t be able to take these next steps.  But for those who have come to understand that God is God and “there is no shadow of darkness in Him” (1 John 1:5), they are ready to move down the path of interior peace: To maintain interior tranquility by accepting everything as coming from the hand of God.  Go ahead, read chapter 25 below.  I know it seems crazy and impossible and not even wise to maintain peace in every situation.  But Christ Jesus wants us to be completely at peace, so that He can come with His Father to dwell within us.  For the Lord dwells in peace.  “May the peace of Christ REIGN in your heart” (Colossians 3:15)

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Read the Spiritual Combat online here.

Read all of chapter 25 below.

To read previous posts on the Spiritual Combat, click here for the whole series.

Coming up next, chapter 26: What to do after I’ve sinned.

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all of chapter 25:

When we have lost our peace of mind, we should do our utmost to recover it; neither is there any accident of life which should reasonably have power to deprive us of that peace, or even to trouble it.

Over our own sins we have indeed cause to mourn deeply; but our sorrow, as I have shown more than once, should be calm; and in like manner, without any disquiet, but with a holy feeling of charity, should we compassionate other sinners, and weep, at least inwardly, over their offenses.

As to other sad and trying events, such as sickness, wounds, or loss of dearest friends, pestilence, fire, war, or suchlike evils, though these being painful to nature are for the most part shunned by the men of this world, yet may we, by Divine grace, not only desire, but even love them, as just chastisements upon the wicked, and occasions of virtue to the just. For therefore does our Lord God take pleasure in sending them; and thus borne forward by His will, we shall pass with a calm and quiet spirit through all the bitterness and contradictions of this life. And be assured, that all disquiet on our part is displeasing in His sight; for, of whatever kind it be, it is never free from imperfection, and always springs from some evil root of self-love.

Keep, therefore, a sentinel always on the watch, who, as soon as he shall discern the approach of anything likely to disquiet or disturb you, may give you a signal to take up your weapons of defense.

And consider, that all these evils, and many others of a like kind, though outwardly they appear to be such, are not indeed real evils, nor can they rob us of any real good, but are all ordered or permitted by God for the righteous ends of which we have spoken, or for others most wise and holy, although beyond our power to discern.

So may the most untoward accident work for us much good, if we do but keep our souls in peace and tranquillity; otherwise all our exercises will produce little or no fruit.

Besides, when the heart is unquiet it is always exposed to manifold assaults of the enemy: and, moreover, in such a state we are incapable of discerning the right path and the sure way of holiness.

Our enemy, who above all things hates this peace because the Spirit of God dwells and works marvelously therein, often seeks in a friendly disguise to rob us of it, by instilling into our hearts sundry desires which have a semblance of good; but their deceitful nature may be detected by this test among others, that they rob us of our peace of mind

Therefore, to avert so great an evil, when the sentinel gives notice of the approach of some new desire, on no account give it entrance into your heart, until, with a free and unbiased will, you have first presented it to God, and confessing your ignorance and blindness, have earnestly prayed to Him for light to discern whether it comes from Him or from the enemy. Have recourse also, if possible, to the judgment of your spiritual father.

And, even if the desire should be from God, do not begin to carry it into execution till you have mortified your own eagerness; for a work preceded by such mortification will be far more acceptable to Him than if performed with all the impetuosity of nature; nay, sometimes it may be that the mortification will please Him better than the work itself.

Thus, casting from you all evil desires, and not venturing to carry even good desires into effect till you have first repressed your natural impulses, you shall keep the fortress of your heart in security and peace.

And in order to preserve it in perfect peace, you must also guard and defend it from certain inward self-reproaches and remorseful feelings, which are sometimes from the devil, though, as they accuse you of some failing, they seem to come from God. By their fruits shall you know whence they proceed.

If they humble you, if they make you diligent in well-doing, if they take not from you your trust in God, then receive them with all thankfulness as coming from Him. But if they discourage you, if they make you fearful, distrustful, slack and feeble in good deeds, then be assured they come from the enemy; give no ear to them, but continue your exercise.

And as anxiety at the approach of adverse events springs up even more frequently in our hearts, you have two things to do in order to ward off this assault.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)The first is, carefully to search out and discover to what these events are adverse, whether to the soul, or to self-love and self-will.

For, if they be adverse to your own will and to self-love, your chief and greatest enemy, they are not to be called adverse, but to be esteemed special favors and helps from the most high God, to be received with a joyful heart and with thanksgiving.

And though they should be adverse to the soul, you ought not on this account to lose your peace of mind, as I will show you in the following chapter.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)The second is, to lift up the heart to God, accepting all things blindly from the hand of His Divine Providence, ever full of manifold blessings beyond your power to comprehend, and seeking to know nothing further

OVERWHELMED [WORSHIP VIDEO]

God is bigger than the biggest.  God is smarter than the smartest.  God is more lovely than the lovliest.  God is more powerful than the most powerful.  God is more forgiving than the most forgiving.  God is more.  And He is our God.  And He knows us each by name.  OVERWHELMING!!!  Close your door; turn off your lights; dance with arms lifted high.  Sing unto HIM!!!

Epiphany: God made manifest

Epiphany is a marvelous and rich feast. Delightfully, that richness lingers throughout this whole last week of the Christmas season as we approach the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We see embers of that richness reflected in the prayers offered in the Church’s liturgy and in the readings proclaimed from Sacred Scripture. We hear declarations of the Kingship of Christ, manifestations of His marvelous glory, and his longing to claim His Bride.

Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia. (Morning Prayer Antiphon)

God himself has taken on our human flesh in the Incarnation, but lest we forget in our gazing upon a sweet infant babe, the ensuing feasts quickly remind us that this sweet babe in the arms of Mary is the all-powerful King of the Universe who has broken into our world to bring light into dark places, to set captives free, and to draw not just a chosen few, but ALL, to himself.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you… Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. (Isaiah 60:1-5)

In the early hours of Sunday morning the song God With Us by All Sons and Daughters began running through my mind. It is my Epiphany theme song! He has come to be so near to us; He is God with us. Come, stand in His glory; know His peace, hope, and light. And come as the Magi did, no matter how far you must travel, to lay all you are and all you have at His feet, even your costliest treasures. For you shall be radiant at what you see in this great king who comes to take you as His bride, and your heart shall overflow with more joy than you can imagine when His light floods your heart.

A Lesson in Encouragement

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I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

(Ephesians 1:15-19)

There was a time in my life – after coming to know the Lord a little bit, but before joining seminary – when I was living something of a double life. With one group of friends I was fully invested in growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and with another friend or two I was compromising my dignity as a son of God. I was aware of the contradiction, but had no real desire to stop either way of life, so I let it continue. Then one day I received a letter out of the blue from a friend. This friend thanked me for being such a good man of God, the kind of man who pursues virtue and lives with integrity. A day or two later I was out to eat with some friends and one of them said something similar to, ‘That’s what I like about Bryan – you just know he’s going to strive for holiness.’ Following these two encounters, I was convicted to stop living the double life and do all I could to live only for Jesus Christ and his glory. These people, without even really being aware of it, were calling me on to greater holiness by their words of affirmation and encouragement.

St. Paul does two things in this passage: he encourages the Ephesians and he tells the them of his regular prayers for them (and it’s safe to say he actually does pray for them). Through his words of encouragement he is calling the Ephesians on to greater holiness, and through his prayers he is trusting that God will aid them in the pursuit of holiness. Not only this, but he also reminds them of the greatness of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, mentioning the glorious inheritance of the saints and the immeasurable greatness of his power in those who believe, as if to say, “Don’t lose sight of this, especially when the world wants you to think otherwise.” His words transformed the lives of the Ephesians and still transform the lives of disciples to this day. Our words, too, are meant to transform the lives of those around us!

In your prayer, ask the Lord who he wants you to encourage and pray for. Often times we want to have great and powerful messages for random strangers on the street, and we expect these great and powerful messages to transform the most hardened of hearts. Most often, though, simple words of encouragement to those most familiar to us are the most powerful and transformative words we can speak, because those closest to us will know of our sincerity and genuine good will towards them. St. Paul typically would form a relationship with a community before calling them to believe in the Gospel, and this is no exception. We ought to see our relationships with people as the greatest possible occasions of bringing about the glory of God. So many disciples slip through the proverbial cracks in the Christian life because no one has encouraged them to keep their eyes on the prize. If the Lord puts someone on your heart, he’s probably asking you to reach out to that person and encourage him or her, and so build up the community of believers. At some point we all need to be reminded of the glorious inheritance of the saints.

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