Spirituality as offense or defense?


#1

I just finished reading the very familiar Ephesians passage that talks about “putting on the armor of God”, etc., along with the Word Among Us meditation on this passage. I found the following from their meditation very insightful, especially considering the way so many seem to use their spiritual “tools”.

Look at this passage again, and identify the instruments of battle that Paul lists: a breastplate, boots, a shield, a helmet, and finally a sword. Did you notice that only one is a weapon? The rest are meant for protection against attack. Notice, too, the posture that Paul tells the Ephesians to take up: They are to “stand firm,” ready to “resist” evil when it comes at them, and to “stand fast” whenever they are attacked (Ephesians 6:11,13,14).

Why is this important? Because there is a battle going on all around us, and we need to be aware of it. But our calling in life is not to wage war against enemy forces. Our calling is to build the kingdom of God, keeping our eyes on Jesus, not on our enemies. We simply need this armor to protect us when the devil tries to wear us down.

What about you? Where is your focus? On your enemies? Or on all the good that you can do? People need you to show them the way to Jesus—far more than they need to see another superhero!

It is, unfortunately, much easier to use the “weapons” of the battle to try to be the “superhero” in bringing people to God. Actually showing people the way to God involves actually living the gospel we claim to believe and imitating the Christ, and his message, that is the only “way” to God.

St. Francis knew that well, which is why he advised to “preach the gospel always; use words if necessary.” If we are truly focused on God our actions and words will reflect that and people will be naturally drawn to find out where our peace and joy comes from. It is what caused the very early Church to grow by leaps and bounds despite tremendous persecution and the danger to one’s very life. It is what caused people to look at Francis’s radical poverty and stop in their tracks to embrace his total love for God, inspiring a growth in the Church that had likely not been seen since that early Church.

I know I far too often find myself trying to play the superhero, thinking it is MY puny efforts that are bringing people to God. :rolleyes: In the end, I’m just a leaky pot that occasionally lets enough water drip out to water some of the Master’s seeds, while just as often just trampling others because I’m not paying attention.

I’ve found in my better moments that the best weapon I have in helping someone find God is the cross. But amazingly it’s not MY cross; it’s the one I help someone else carry. Now if I can just spend less time making their cross heavier instead of lighter I might actually do some good.

Peace,


#2

I wonder if there is a connection, here, with Jesus saying
"Let the little children come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’

Children display simplicity. They are single-hearted.
They are who they are, and they reflect God because of this uncomplicated state of being.

As Jesus counseled, when they say yes, they mean yes, and when they say no they mean no.

And ‘no’ is ‘know’ for them.

When a child says that he/she thinks that God is good, this means worlds to Him.
No wonder He wills the childlike in His presence.
Not childish, rather childlike.
'God is my Father, He made everything. I like pumpkins."

‘And God saw that it was good.’ [Genesis]

reen


#3

I wonder if there is a connection, here, with Jesus saying
"Let the little children come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’

Children display simplicity. They are single-hearted.
They are who they are, and they reflect God because of this uncomplicated state of being.

As Jesus counseled, when they say yes, they mean yes, and when they say no they mean no.

And ‘no’ is ‘know’ for them.

When a child says that he/she thinks that God is good, this means worlds to Him.
No wonder He wills the childlike in His presence.
Not childish, rather childlike.
'God is my Father, He made everything. I like pumpkins."

‘And God saw that it was good.’ [Genesis]

reen


#4

I would think that there is indeed a connection Reen. Those with childlike trust will also act in the way such children will act, with spontaneous acts of pure love.

In the early Church it was said that one could recognize the Christians by the way they loved one another and took care of each other. Since being loved is a basic need of the human soul, such treatment would most assuredly be the kind of “witness” that would draw people to find out more about this group. It is the same approach that Francis used many centuries later in showing love to even the most difficult.

I don’t personally think there is a more effective and “disarming” weapon than pure love.


#5

This made me think of the human project one occassionaly notices.
The attempt to conform to a false self image.
[This is usually packed and padded with all kinds of ‘shoulds.’]

I think of Jesus calling to Lazarus: "Lazarus. Come* out*!"
Come out - from a false self-image. Come out from the tangles of pseudo-sanctity.

In fact, God told Moses that His name was I AM.
When our ‘am’ and I AM meet, we are more *am *than ever we were.
We are more our true self, and God is delighted.

And with all the energy saved, in not trying to fulfill the
demands of a false-self, we can say more prayers.
Little, simple prayers. Like Francis did.

"Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Brother Sun…
And he is beautiful and radiant, with great splendour…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars -
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair."

Explore Maureen Gaus

Francis saw the little things. Each day was fresh for him,
as if the world had been born anew, in it’s beauty, while he slept.

Like a child, on Christmas morning, he saw each thing that
God had made as a gift, given anew each day.

reen


#6

If one observes the most disarming saints in the Church are also among the most passive to engaging in battles: Francis of Assisi, Vincent de Paul, Mother Teresa, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena, Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II and John XXIII.

These men and women, even though they had something to say about the erros in the world around them, really made their greatest impact by the way they lived and how they guided souls to inner peace and union with the Divine.

Even someone as powerful as Thomas Aquinas, rarely left the cloister of his priory. He disarmed the world with his holiness and his knowledge, not with a sharp tongue.

We know that Francis of Assisi attempted to convert the Muslims, failed at it and later managed to negotiate the longest peace treaty with the Muslims and Jews in the history of the world. To this day, the Franciscans have operated the holy sites in Palestine. This came after an accord with the Muslims and Jews that was struck up by Francis. They both allowed the three Franciscan Orders safe passage through the Middle East. To this day, there are laws in Muslim countries and in Israel that protect the Franciscans right to transit there. They did not convert, but they did agree to allow the Franciscans to minister among them. Francis disarmed them with his charm and his holiness.

John Paul II disarmed the Communist system in Poland and most of Europe with his peaceful and pastoral approach, not with sharpness.

Mother Teresa and her congregation are the only Christians who are safe in India right now. Their safety is due to their silence. They serve Christ in the poor without engaging in any kind prostelitizing. Their presence is helping keep alive the presence of the Catholic Church.

Catherine of Siena wrote great treatises on the mystical life, letters to popes and bishops, but was best known for being a holy spiritual director. She was the first lay woman who actively engaged in the ministry of spiritual direction. She disarmed people with her wisdom and her charity, even popes. She was never known to travel on any preaching crusade.

John XXIII engaged people with his humour and his Franciscan approach to the Gospel. He is one of the Franciscan Order’s holiest men in modern times. He did exactly what his spiritual father ordered. He lived a simple life and taught the Gospel through simple acts that changed the world.

I believe that all of you are correct. The spiritual life is the greatest defense and offense against sin.

Fraternally,

JR :slight_smile:


#7

I found that meditation very meaningful. I had to admit that I often spend too much time on ways to activly defeat the enemy but I think this meditation led me to reflect that the best way to do defeat evil is to live as Christ commands us to live and as I do this I am defeating the enemy so much more effectivly then looking for ways to attack; like the op said thjinking I have to behave like a superhero.


#8

Thanks for the great examples JR. I have to admit that you added greatly to my own Franciscan education as I was not aware of the treaty with the Muslims and Jews. I was well aware of his meeting with the sultan and the mutual respect shown there but did not know there was followup to that.

Peace,


#9

What made the treaty possible was Francis’ honesty. Even though he did not convert the sultan or the Muslims (he made two trips to the East), he impressed them with his honesty and his love. Their reason for rejecting his preaching was not the message, but the fact that they had been victims of abuse by other Christians. There was a great deal of mistrust.

However, to this day the Franciscans work along with Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem on many common pastoral ministries, the biggest one of all is the Franciscan Centre for the Family. At the centre Jewish, Christian and Muslim families receive many kinds of services from the Friars together with Muslim and Jewish caregivers. The beautiful thing about it is that they work in harmony.

The Friars also work alongside the Orthodox Christians and together they run the holy sites of Christianity and bring many pilgrims to the Christian faith.

The Friars do not have to compromise their Catholic faith to achieve this or their Franciscan spirit. In fact, it is their spirituality that makes them greatly loved by all. Their spirit of prayer, penance, simplicity and charity preaches without words.

You see, part of the agreement between the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the State of Israel is that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox will not try to convert the Jews. The Vatican has upheld this agreement since the early 1950s. But, there is not law that forbids Israeli citizens from becoming Christians. Many Muslim and Jewish Israelis have become Christians over the last 50 years. Those who have not, have done a great deal to protect the Christians in Israel and to include them in the government and public life of Israel.

This was made possible by the Franciscan presence of more than 750 years. Healthy Christian spirituality can conquer minds, souls and even governments.

Think about it.

Fraternally,

JR :slight_smile:


#10

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.