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SPIRITUAL BATTLE, 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B

            Mark tells us the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. The Person of the Holy Spirit was present in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit moved Him from within to go into the desert and stir up a conflict with Satan, the major enemy of Jesus, because he is the major enemy of the human race. Jesus depended on His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit to sustain Him in His mission of freeing the human race from the bondage of sin and death. In His human nature, Jesus felt the pressure of His mission.

            The same Holy Spirit who moved Jesus out into the desert is the same Holy Spirit that moves the Church Body of Christ and each member into the desert of Lent. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church and pervades the whole Body of Believers to go into the spiritual desert to struggle against the forces of sin. That will lead us to a deeper life and greater spiritual freedom. As Paul teaches: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God.”

            In His struggle against our enemies, He was “put to death in the flesh. He was brought to life in the Spirit.” We were brought to life in Christ when we were baptized. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit came to dwell in us. The waters of baptism washed away our sins. Paul reminds us that the great flood under Noah prefigured baptism. Beside the washing of baptism, the Lord washes us clean of sin in the Sacrament of Penance-Reconciliation. Our Covenant bond with the Lord is renewed and strengthened whenever the Lord comes to us and acts in a special way, as He does in the Sacraments He gave to the Church. As we prayed in the psalm, “Good and upright is the Lord, thus He shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and He teaches the humble His way”.

            What Jesus experienced in the desert is what the Church, the Body of Christ, experiences in every age. It’s actually what all people experience in living human life. It’s important for us to know our true enemies in life. Some spend their time fighting people who aren’t their enemies, and not knowing or recognizing their true enemies. If we are not aware of our true enemies, we will not put up a defense. Some see the Lord as their enemy rather than their Savior. Some see the Church as their enemy rather than a major instrument of the Lord’s saving power and presence to them. Some see the devil as their friend. Some see their sinful mind and ways against God as their friend.

            The Season of Lent is a time to do battle with our true enemies. The Catholic Christian Tradition following God’s Divine Revelation identifies three enemies, three sources of temptation to sin that we have to overcome with the Lord’s grace, action and presence in our life. They are the flesh, the world and the devil.

            The flesh refers to our own human nature. Throughout life we have to deal with the consequences of original sin. They are referred to as wounds in our nature. Just as we have a natural gene inheritance, we also have a spiritual gene inheritance of darkened intellect, weakened will, and disordered emotions. Any part of the human person can be subject to sin. The capital sins cover the different areas of the human person. All the capital sins, pride, envy, jealousy, lust, anger, greed, and sloth are present and active in the human race. Each person can come to know which capital sins they are more likely to be disposed to commit. The capital sins are countered by the corresponding virtues. Families specialize in different sins just as natural diseases can run in families. Families can also specialize in different virtues. Whatever vice or capitol sin one is more inclined toward can be offset by responding to God’s grace to develop the opposing virtue. Some of our greatest saints, at one time, were great sinners. St. Paul speaks of the struggle of the flesh and the spirit, which he describes as two opposing laws working in human nature.

            In the Scriptures the world refers to all the forces opposed to God that seek to draw people into sin. Many take part in the sin of the world, and become sources of temptation and sin for others. We have to learn how not to be drawn into the forces of sin, but to oppose them by proclaiming and living the truth. The culture of death is opposed by the culture of life. The culture of falsehoods is countered by the truth of God.

            The devil, satan and his fallen angels, work in the world to tempt people to sin. Good angels work against them. Angels ministered to Jesus. Angels minister to the Church, the Body of Christ. Just as Jesus was victorious over the devil’s temptations, He provides the graces and power to overcome our temptations.

            The season of Lent is a time to do battle with our own human nature, the world opposed to God’s kingdom, life and the devil. The spiritual battles can be more easily won by strengthening ourselves through prayer, meeting the Lord in the Sacraments, living the virtues and teachings of faith, and positively doing good. Following Jesus involves struggles and spiritual combat with the world, the flesh and the devil. The Lord’s power and grace is far greater than that of the world opposed to the Lord, the weaknesses of human nature, and satan and his kingdom.

            Today we pray for the Holy Spirit’s driving force to give us, and all peoples, the knowledge and awareness of our true enemies, and all the power we need in the spiritual battles of life.

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