FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
HOLY WARRIORS – 5
June 29, 2016
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
2 Timothy 4:6-18
Peter and Paul. Apostles. One among the original 12, the other by special direct appointment by Jesus. One a fisherman, the other a persecutor of Christians. Both holy warriors.
Peter and Paul were zealous and passionate evangelizers and missionaries. They suffered much. But who does not suffer in war? That is, if you are an authentic warrior actually in the battlefield (not in the Country Club).
There is a powerful enemy, Satan himself. But there are also lots of enemies within. For Paul there was Demas, who was co-opted by the world and who abandoned him (2 Tm 4:10). Then there was Alexander the coppersmith, who “strongly resisted (his) preaching” (2 Tm 4:15b) and who did him “a great deal of harm” (2 Tm 4:14a). Probably (or surely) badmouthed, lied about and slandered him. Then there were those who deserted him (2 Tm 4:16). Happens all the time in the Church and in Christian community.
But God protects and saves His holy warriors. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he saves them.” (Ps 34:8). Remember the angel who struck down 185,000 Assyrians? God has many more of those angels!! And so if we trust in God and cling to Him, then we need not be afraid, even in the face of overwhelming odds. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, delivered me from all my fears.” (Ps 34:5). Just make sure it is He you seek, and not just rely on earthly or human strength or resources.
Holy warriors will not be shamed by the enemy in battle, even when they are beaten up, bloodied and seemingly defeated. “Look to him and be radiant, and your faces may not blush for shame.” (Ps 34:6). We will always stand tall, even as we might be cut down, with the banners of our Lord and our Lady held high.
Holy warriors can always turn to God, to Jesus who is their Commander-in-Chief, to the Spirit who is their strength and power. Even in our nothingness, God will come to our aid when we cry out. “This poor one cried out and the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.” (Ps 34:7).
This was the experience of Peter. King Herod arrested and imprisoned Peter, under heavy guard, secured by double chains (Acts 12:3-4a,6). But with fervent intercession (very important!) by the Church (Acts 12:5), “suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him …. the chains fell from his wrists” (Acts 12:7), they passed the guards and the iron gate opened by itself (Acts 12:10a)! Peter thought he was dreaming, “not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real” (Acts 12:9). Only when Peter recovered his senses did he realize what had happened. “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11). There again is the angel of the Lord!
Paul also had lots of experiences of protection and deliverance, in the face of great challenges, oppression and suffering. “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength” (2 Tm 4:17a). He was confident in God, he trusted in God, and so he was able to give God his all. He knew who he was, and as a holy warrior, he disdained suffering as he embraced the cross, knowing what awaited him in the end, even as that meant martyrdom. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tm 4:18). As a holy warrior, do you believe?
The enemy is a roaring lion looking for souls to devour, including ours. Paul says, “And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tm 4:17b). In fact, Jesus said to Peter, and thus to the Church (Peter is our first pope), and thus to all holy warriors (the Catholic Church is missionary): “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18).
Now let us get this straight. Holy warriors, listen. This last passage is taken by many to mean that the enemy cannot prevail in his attacks against the Church. Indeed Christ and his Church are already victorious, and in the end the enemy is utterly defeated for all eternity. But it is a wrong interpretation to say that the enemy is attacking the Church but will not prevail (again that is a truth but that is not the interpretation). Gates are for defense, not for offense. And so in this passage, it is the enemy being attacked, not the other way around. The enemy is in defensive mode, but its gates will not stand. The walls, and the gates, of Jericho will fall.
Who then is doing the attacking? The Church and her holy warriors. Hallelujah! Unfortunately, our Church is today not in attack mode, and she is not even in defensive mode. Too many Catholics are just comfortable, complacent, too busy in maintenance mode (but still losing Catholics by the day), unknowing of the raging spiritual war in the heavens, fighting among themselves, unmindful of the call to holiness, and even being the enemy within. So we are losing by default!
Holy warriors, what are your orders? It is the same as Peter and Paul. It is the reason why the Spirit of God empowers you. As Paul says, “the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tm 4:17a-b). Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to proclaim the gospel to the whole world!
Can you say at the end of time, in front of our Commander-in-Chief: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7)? If you can, then you get your reward. No, not a Medal of Honor, though you certainly will be honored by all the angels and saints. You get much better than that. “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Tm 4:8a).
Are you a holy warrior? Then “taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.” (Ps 34:9).
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