Give us strength to meet the challenge,

     that the world does but provide.

Let us see the spiritual battle,

     and from TRUTH, let us not hide.

  

It is a constant challenge to be in  the world, but not of it. (John 17) Time after time, I think I have a lesson learned, have allowed God to lift my mind and heart up toward Him…even just a little, them BAM! I let down my guard for a moment, my humanness asserts itself, and I am unceremoniously pulled back into ‘the world’.

 

St. John of the Cross tells us in his “Cautions” that the three enemies of the soul are the world, the self, and the devil:

 

The world is the enemy least difficult to conquer; the devil is the hardest to understand; the flesh is the most tenacious, and its attacks continue as long as the old man lasts.”

 

Once we get serious about making spiritual progress, the temptations of the evil one become more subtle.  (See The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rules for the second week.)  He tempts us now with things that appear ‘good’.  I mentioned in a previous post that I was ‘born & raised’ for service.  It’s what I saw my mom doing, and I’ve spent most of my adult life serving wherever help was needed.  This is a big area of temptation for me and I need to be watchful so I can discern those things that fit in with my Plan of Life – what God is calling me to be – and identify those that are not part of my calling.  It’s not easy, especially for a people-pleaser like me!  But I am learning.  There are tried and true principles that apply to the spiritual life that are a great help.  Jesus did not leave us orphans.  As we leave the life of sin behind and seek to become holy, we have His Church and many, many, saints to learn from and follow.

 

I recently heard Fr. Zachary of the Mother of God, SOLT, on EWTN speaking of four stages of formation: deformed, reformed, conformed, and transformed.  I really like this, and when I shared it with my spiritual director, he noticed that the last three stages reflect the three stages of the interior life: purgative, illuminative, and unitive.  As I pondered this a bit, the Lord showed me more.

 

We are deformed through sin until

We allow God to reform us in His Truth,

Conform us to His Will, and

Transform us in His beauty and love.

 

I can’t remember ever hearing a priest or any of my CCD teachers talk about the Interior Life.  So it came as quite a shock to me when I learned that the goose bumps and other consolations I was experiencing were from God!  WOW!  I didn’t think God really talked to His people any more – like He did in the Old Testament, except through the Bible, and maybe some especially holy people.  What a beautiful moment it was to learn that this is not true.  God does talk to us!  Knowing this, we need to learn to recognize Him and how He communicates with each of us individually so that we can be re-formed.

 

This is not for the faint of heart.  It’s hard work.  But the strength we need to persevere on the journey is given to us freely; it comes from frequenting the sacraments and spending as much time as possible in adoration.  I may not feel any stronger for having attended Mass or gone to confession, and sometimes getting there can be grueling.  But when I look back a few weeks, months, or years, I am amazed at what I have been through.  I would have turned and run away if I had known about some of these things in advance!

 

We must be aware that ‘spiritual warfare’ is a reality, one we engage in every day whether we know it or not!  Section 409 of the Catechism tells us this:

 

This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one"302 makes man's life a battle:

The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.303

 

And Jesus Himself tells us:

 

” See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.“ Matthew 10:16

 

The devil never rests.  Therefore we must be like the wise virgins, ready and watching for the bridegroom, stripping ourselves of all that weighs us down and prevents our souls from being lifted up to the Lord.  We keep watch and do all we can to maintain our spiritual strength, lest we tire and become unable to resist the lure of the world, the self, and the devil, dragging us back into the muck.

 

To this end we can draw comfort, as Jesus intended, from John 16:33.

 

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
 

 

Over the course of my conversion, among the insights, illuminations, and little Ah-Ha! moments I have experienced, there have also been a few BIG revelations or concepts that I return to over and over again.  One of these is that there IS objective moral Truth, and when we possess the Truth (Jesus), the enemies of our soul can throw whatever lies, half-truths or propaganda they want at us and we will recognize it as garbage because it does not resonate with the Truth within us.

 

I think this is SO COOL!  I love the Holy Spirit!!

 

I have spent far too many hours reading voter’s pamphlets and newspapers, wading through Internet sites, and watching TV trying to decide who, and what, to vote for.  I cannot comprehend that people actually lie and put intentionally misleading information out there just to get their way.  Speeches are prepared by professional writers, and lobbyists shamelessly buy votes across the board.  The media take advantage of our compassion by presenting heart-wrenching stories and possible outcomes if we don’t vote a certain way.  Even children are used as pawns to get votes!

 

Yet there is Truth.  Jesus said, (” I am the way, and the truth, and the life.“John 14:6)  Now if I have a question about whether or not something is right, I turn to the Catechism.  It never fails to provide a precise explanation of what we believe, and why, in light of revealed Truth.

 

Our hearts are generally disposed in one of two ways.  Either we are disposed to hear and receive the Truth, or we aren’t.  Me?  I’m like the rebellious son; it takes some time for the Truth to sink in.  But when it does, then I am completely convinced and am able to accept the Truth with my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. Our fallen nature seeks to absolve itself and find excuses for bad behavior.  We rationalize, justify, and outright ignore many of the commandments and precepts of the Church while we look at our neighbor and tell ourselves that we are doing is okay because, “I’m not as bad as they are.”  I’ve done it!!  I’m not proud of this thinking; and through the grace of God I can now see how blind I had become.  Yes, blind.  Spiritual blindness and malformed consciences allow us to dance merrily down the road to hell, thinking all the while that we are headed in the other direction.  For me, being aware of this tendency has allowed me, through prayer, to create kind of a ‘buffer zone’ where, when I hear something that I want to reject, I set it aside and pray about it instead.  As I grow closer to the Lord I have happily discovered that these instances of rebellion are less frequent, and I am able to discern more quickly whether it is my ‘self’ or the evil one who is causing the disturbance within me.

 

Like Adam and Eve we hide from the Father who loves us…………we know what’s right, we know what we should do, yet we still choose the pleasures the world has to offer, rather than building up our treasure in heaven.

 

I remember clearly how I used to block out those I considered “Bible Thumpers.” Looking back with 20/20 vision I see that I didn’t want to hear what they had to say because it was the truth, and I didn’t want to have to deal with it.  I didn’t want to have to change anything, much less admit to myself that I was wrong.  The devil is very accommodating in this respect, I had all the excuses and rationalizations I needed and more!  But I wasn’t happy, because I was living a lie – I wasn’t living in the Truth that my soul was longing for.  Eventually that internal tension and agitation led me to desire more time in solitude and quiet.  I wanted to be at church.  I started praying the rosary – every day!  Then God took over and, through His grace, I am no longer the same person I used to be; I am becoming the person He meant me to be all along.