Spiritual War

(Homily for Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B)

Bottom line: We are in a spiritual battle and we need all the help we can get.

We are involved in a spiritual war - and we need all the help we can get. Today's Gospel underscores the need for allies. The Apostle John complains about an exorcist using Jesus' name to drive out demons. Since he doesn't belong to the apostolic band, John tries to prevent him.

Jesus, however, takes a different approach: "Whoever is not against us is for us," he says. "Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward."

Jesus is telling us we need allies in the spiritual battle. Dr. Peter Kreeft once spoke about the spiritual war. He asked, "Who is the enemy?" He goes through a list of possible enemies, including Muslim terrorists, the media, the liberal establishment, abortionists and "cafeteria Catholics." No, he says, they are not our enemies; they are victims of the real enemy.

Who then is the real enemy? Dr. Kreeft answers directly, "Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits."*

We are at war with the evil spirits and the stakes are high. World War II determined the fate of nations - for generations. But the life of a nation is brief in comparison to a soul. Someday the United States will disappear. When that happens, your existence and mine will have barely begun.

Likewise, the Muslim terrorist, the anti-Catholic bigot, the Planned Parenthood director - they all have an eternal destiny. Each one has an incalculable value. We want their salvation. The spiritual war will determine where each one will spend eternity. Jesus tells us that this life is serious. It would be better to lose one's hand or foot or eye rather than go into Gehenna, the unquenchable fire.

A battle rages in our culture - and in your heart and mine. We need all the help we can get. Don't turn away any possible ally, Jesus advises.

I remember when I was in high school listening to President John Kennedy's Inaugural Address. He said, "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe..."

Jesus likewise speaks about supporting any friend, paying any price and bearing any burden. And we face a foe more formidable than any Communist regime. Our foe has centuries of experience bringing people down. He knows your weaknesses and mine - and he has new, powerful weapons in the Internet, TV, the media in general. He is not a gentleman. Like a fierce hyena he attacks the wounded antelope.

We often seem powerless against this foe. And we are - if we rely on our own power. But things change when we call on the Lord, the Blessed Virgin, St. Michael and his angels - and the whole Communion of Saints, which includes those on earth who stand with Jesus. St. James says to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee.

Next week Jesus will speak to us about marriage. It's a difficult topic. The devil is fiercely attacking marriages - and marriage itself. The tide seems to be in his favor. But I have some news. I will tell you about it in my next homily. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but I can say this: The victory belongs to Jesus.

The victory may not happen tomorrow - or November. President Kennedy spoke about "a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, 'rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation.'"

This coming Sunday I will ask our young people - especially our young men - to join in this struggle, this spiritual war. It has the highest stakes possible. The ancient enemy seeks our eternal destruction, but Jesus offers life. And he tells us: better to lose a hand, an eye or foot than to lose eternal life. And he urges us to look for every available ally in the battle.

The choice is stark: to enter life or Gehenna. We are in a spiritual war and we need all the help we can get. Amen.


Here is the full quote:

Who is our enemy?

Not Protestants. For almost half a millennium, many of us thought our enemies were Protestant heretics, and addressed that problem by consigning their bodies to battlefields and their souls to Hell. (Echoes of this strategy can still be heard in Northern Ireland.) Gradually, the light dawned: Protestants are not our enemies, they are our “separated brethren.” They will fight with us.

Not Jews. For almost two millennia many of us thought that, and did such Christless things to our “fathers in the faith” that we made it almost impossible for the Jews to see their God—the true God—in us.

Not Muslims, who are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ, who often live more godly lives following their fallible scriptures and their fallible prophet than we do following our infallible scriptures and our infallible prophet.

The same is true of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Quakers.

Our enemies are not “the liberals.” For one thing, the term is almost meaninglessly flexible. For another, it’s a political term, not a religious one. Whatever is good or bad about political liberalism, it’s neither the cause nor the cure of our present spiritual decay. Spiritual wars are not decided by whether welfare checks increase or decrease.

Our enemies are not anti-Catholic bigots who want to crucify us. They are the ones we’re trying to save. They are our patients, not our disease. Our word for them is Christ’s: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We say this of the Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Catholics, and to the Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Catholics. They are not our enemies, they are our patients. We are Christ’s nurses. The patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses know better.

Our enemies are not even the media of the culture of death, not even Ted Turner or Larry Flynt or Howard Stern or Disney or Time-Warner. They too are victims, patients, though on a rampage against the hospital, poisoning other patients. But the poisoners are our patients too. So are homosexual activists, feminist witches, and abortionists. We go into gutters and pick up the spiritually dying and kiss those who spit at us, if we are cells in our Lord’s Body. If we do not physically go into gutters, we go into spiritual gutters, for we go where the need is.

Our enemies are not heretics within the Church, “cafeteria Catholics,” “Kennedy Catholics,” “I Did It My Way” Catholics. They are also our patients, though they are Quislings. They are the victims of our enemy, not our enemy.

Our enemies are not theologians in so-called Catholic theology departments who have sold their souls for thirty pieces of scholarship and prefer the plaudits of their peers to the praise of God. They are also our patients.

Our enemy is not even the few really bad priests and bishops, candidates for Christ’s Millstone of the Month Award, the modern Pharisees. They too are victims, in need of healing.

Who, then, is our enemy?

There are two answers. All the saints and popes throughout the Church’s history have given the same two answers, for these answers come from the Word of God on paper in the New Testament and the Word of God in flesh in Jesus Christ.

Yet they are not well known. In fact, the first answer is almost never mentioned today. Not once in my life have I ever heard a homily on it, or a lecture by a Catholic theologian.

Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.

So says Jesus Christ: “Do not fear those who can kill the body and then has no more power over you. I will tell you whom to fear. Fear him who has power to destroy both body and soul in Hell.”

So says St. Peter, the first pope: “The Devil, like a roaring lion, is going through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”

So says St. Paul: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of wickedness in high places.”

So said Pope Leo the XIII, who received a vision of the 20th century that history has proved terrifyingly true. He saw Satan, at the beginning of time, allowed one century in which to do his worst work, and he chose the 20th. This pope with the name and heart of a lion was so overcome by the terror of this vision that he fell into a trance. When he awoke, he composed a prayer for the whole Church to use to get it through the 20th century. The prayer was widely known and prayed after every Mass—until the ’60s: exactly when the Church was struck with that incomparably swift disaster that we have not yet named (but which future historians will), the disaster that has destroyed a third of our priests, two-thirds of our nuns, and nine-tenths of our children’s theological knowledge; the disaster that has turned the faith of our fathers into the doubts of our dissenters, the wine of the Gospel into the water of psychobabble.

The restoration of the Church, and thus the world, might well begin with the restoration of the Lion’s prayer and the Lion’s vision, because this is the vision of all the popes and all the saints and our Lord himself: the vision of a real Hell, a real Satan, and real spiritual warfare.

I said there were two enemies. The second is even more terrifying than the first. There is one nightmare even more terrible than being chased and caught and tortured by the Devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil. The horror outside your soul is terrible enough; how can you bear to face the horror inside your soul?

What is the horror inside your soul? Sin. All sin is the Devil’s work, though he usually uses the flesh and the world as his instruments. Sin means inviting the Devil in. And we do it. That’s the only reason why he can do his awful work; God won’t let him do it without our free consent. And that’s why the Church is weak and the world is dying: because we are not saints.

To understand that we are at war and what weapons we possess, see Dr. Kreeft's full article.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for 26th Sunday, Year B):

2015: Discernment of Spirits Week 5: Keeping Focus
2012: Spiritual War
2009: Gehenna
2006: Whoever Is Not Against Us
2003: Giving and Taking Scandal
2000: False Comfort
1997: Everything Else is Small Potatoes

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Fr. Brad's Homilies

Fr. Jim's Homilies

Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Rite of Christian Initiation: 2012-2013 Schedule for St. Mary of the Valley, Monroe

Letter to Parishioners on Marriage by Fr. Patrick Freitag (Pastor of St. Monica, Mercer Island, WA)

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