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BATTLEGROUNDS - 22nd Sunday

The news keeps us aware of various battlefields and battles going on among nations, within nations, within cities, schools, communities and families.

There is another battleground, which is closer to home, which each human person engages in on a daily basis. It’s our own person, where our soul and eternal life is going to be won or lost. These battles are mostly spiritual, emotional, mental, relational between ourselves and others, and even the Lord. Most of them are with ourselves in the struggles of the mind, heart and body. Many of them are with the forces weakening or strengthening us spiritually, emotional, mentally and physically. We are engaged in a continual spiritual warfare!

On the battlefield of human life, we need protective armor for the many forces working on and even against humans. There is a battle going on for the minds, hearts and even the very lives of people. We worry about all the physical dangers facing people. We also need to be concerned about the spiritual, moral and emotional dangers of sin and evil that seek to destroy people. We need only think of pornography, violence, greed, and lies, as well as attacks on God, spiritual values, and human life itself.

The Christian Tradition has always pointed out the enemies opposed to God. They are described as the world, that is the forces that work against humans and their relationship to the Lord; the flesh, that is our own broken and weakened human nature prone to sin; and the devil, who works to destroy God’s creation of humans in different ways.

Many in our society and culture seem to deny these dangers and allow millions of people to be injured and even killed spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Many don’t seem to recognize the battle going on in their own person, and the spiritual attacks their person is undergoing. They allow various kinds of spiritual, emotional, mental and physical evils to invade their person.

St. Paul has described the spiritual wars and the battleground of the human person as well as anyone. He describes them as being between the flesh, which in his thought means whatever is opposed to God, and the spirit, which in his thought means whatever is of God, that goes on in every human person. Everyone who wants to do God’s will and keep the commandments knows something of the ongoing battle.

Paul admonishes us: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect”. To win the spiritual battles of our life we rely continually on the grace and mercy of God and offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Notice the word sacrifice. That takes endurance, vigilance, and the ability to die to ourselves on some levels in order to live on a higher level.

We don’t like pain and sacrifice! We have to be lead into dying and rising by the Lord as Jeremiah was. Jeremiah claimed the Lord duped him into carrying out His will of proclaiming His Word. “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” Yet Paul admonishes us “I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship”.

The life of Jesus was not spared the spiritual battle. “…Jesus started to indicate to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer greatly there…and to be put to death and rise up on the third day.” Peter didn’t want Jesus to suffer. “May you be spared, Master!” Jesus rebuked him, “you are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s”.

Jesus stresses how important it is to enter into the spiritual battle, both to counter evil and even more so to follow the Lord and do good. “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in My footsteps.” The Lord says we save our life by losing it and in living for the Lord. Living for the Lord demands self-denial, sacrifice, and battle with the forces of sin and evil. One’s entire self is involved in the battle. “What can a man offer in exchange for his very self?”

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