How do we Prepare for the Battle for our Salvation?

Clearly, we cannot wait idly with our arms crossed for the enemy to approach and only then take action.

Newsdesk (01/07/2024 9:57, Gaudium Press) An indispensable prerequisite for fighting any battle is knowledge of the enemy and his tactics, of the field where the battle will take place, of the advantages and disadvantages of one’s position.

In our fight for perseverance, we have an adversary – evil – which is organized into different fronts: the world, the flesh and the devil. And the conflict takes place in the theatre of war within our own soul.

Weak human nature, corrupted by original sin, has to contend with itself, for “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). And as if this struggle against the disordered movements of our nature were not enough, we have moreover to contend with the world, sometimes in a struggle with men so evil and perverse that they seem worse than the demons themselves…

These two concupiscences would be enough to give us occasion for exercise in virtue through continuous combat. However, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, “this is not enough for the evil of demons.” And here is our third battlefront: the struggle against “principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

The enemy onslaught

We have met the enemy. Now we look at his tactics of war.

The Book of Genesis gives us a detailed account of the first temptation in human history, which led Adam and Eve to disobey God and incur the original guilt. From this account we can draw valuable lessons and clearly see the wiles that, in general terms, the tempter has used to lead people into sin throughout the ages.

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Firstly, the Serpent makes a discreet insinuation: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” (3:1).

The devil begins by moving the conversation in the direction that suits him. Thus, to people who are particularly inclined to sensuality or to doubts against the Faith, he will speak to them in general terms, without yet inciting them to evil: “Is it true that God demands a blind adherence of your intelligence to the truths of the Faith, or the complete immolation of all your natural appetites?”

We must never enter into dialogue with the tempter. And there are two ways of resisting: directly – for example, by speaking well of a person when we feel tempted to slander, or by making a public act of manifestation of faith when human respect incites us to be ashamed of Religion – or indirectly, which is especially the case in temptations that refer to faith or chastity, from which we must immediately turn away, we can win only by fleeing. Logical argument or frontal confrontation against these temptations would only serve to entangle us even more in the enemy’s fallacies.

On Eve’s part, there was no rejection; on the contrary, she began to engage in a dangerous dialogue with the Serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” (3:2-3). Consequently, the evil one found himself free to announce his fallacious proposal: “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (3:4-5).

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When, through our own fault or weakness, we fail to reject the devil’s first insinuations, we are in grave danger of succumbing. Our strength weakens and sin becomes more and more attractive: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” (3:6a).

The soul then begins to waver and become troubled. A strange nervousness takes hold of his whole being. He does not want to offend God, but the panorama before him is so seductive!

Finally, if a person gives in to temptation in a serious matter, violently banishing the divine presence from himself, becoming an enemy of God and deserving of hell, shame and remorse assail him: “and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (3:6b-7).

The sinner, disillusioned and frustrated, has only one way out: to recognize his wickedness and ingratitude, and ask God for forgiveness.

Our preparation

But how can we prepare ourselves for this great war for our salvation? Clearly, we cannot wait idly with our arms crossed for the enemy to approach and only then take action.

The fundamental strategy and the weapons we will use to overcome temptation were given by the Divine General to His Apostles on the night He began the Passion, His most glorious battle: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:41).

The castles of defence that withstand the most violent onslaughts are built in times of peace, so in periods of calm we must keep our eyes on the enemy, suspecting that he will return at any moment and preparing ourselves to resist. This vigilance must manifest itself in fleeing dangerous occasions, in mastering our passions and in renouncing idleness, the mother of all vices.

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Along with strategy, we have the powerful weapon of prayer. Our perseverance in virtue depends on effective graces, without which any effort will be in vain. We must therefore humbly and insistently ask God to grant them to us.  We can count on the help of our Guardian Angels and the Saints in Heaven; we can count on the maternal aid of the Blessed Virgin, the one who crushes the head of the infernal enemy. So we must not fear: for victory in battle depends on the “strength [that] comes from Heaven” (1 Mc 3:19).

And if we are defeated in any battle, the powerful Sacrament of Confession can recover all the ground in our soul that the enemy boasted of having conquered. A true soldier does not surrender in the face of enemy machine-gun fire; when we are struck, we must then bandage our wounds, get up and continue the fight. Let us remember that the tempter rejoices more in the discouragement and loss of confidence caused by our faults than in the faults themselves.

In this great war, the decorations for heroism are in the shape of a cross, painted red for the blood of fighting souls who are guaranteed, at the end of the race, entry into the palace of the Heavenly King.

Finally, a very important point: enlistment is not optional… It encompasses everyone with the use of reason, men and women, of all ages, because, whether we like it or not, journeying this valley of tears means being a militant on a battlefield.

By Guilherme Henrique Maia.

Text extracted, with adaptations, from Heralds of the Gospel Magazine, n. 192, Oct. 2023.

Compiled by Roberta MacEwan

 

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