TO LIVE IS CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Note: I am re-titling this series as “Holy Warriors.”

As you have seen in the last 18 articles in this particular series, it really has been about holy warriors. And more and more, as we start on our next 35 years, in these direly critical times in the life of our Church and of the world, as we have already entered into the end times, as we continue to respond more deeply to the call to the New Evangelization, this will be a recurring theme, and is what I will be emphasizing for our servant leaders and for our community.

The term “holy warrior” is an integrated reality. The two need to go together. Unfortunately, there are many who are good and holy but are not engaged in the spiritual war, and there are those engaged in the spiritual war who are still quite worldly and are easily turned by the evil one, becoming the enemy within. A servant leader for the New Evangelization has to be a holy warrior.

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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

HOLY WARRIORS

(Part 19)

TO LIVE IS CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN

October 29, 2016

Today’s readings:

Philippians 1:18-26

Psalm 42:2-5

Luke 14:1-11

Drawing from today’s readings, following are 10 characteristics of holy warriors.

First, a holy warrior has a deep, intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. His life is for Christ first and foremost, in truth, for Christ alone. He longs to commune with God, as much as possible. “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Ps 42:2). He knows he cannot exist apart from God. He desires to ingest Christ, as the deer with water, to be sustained in life. Such desire and longing is so strong that he cannot wait to truly be with God in heaven. “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God?” (Ps 42:3).

Second, a holy warrior is aware of the evil in a world that has turned away from God, and is deeply pained by it, making him desire to do something about it, as God’s instrument. “My tears have been my bread day and night, as they ask me every day, ‘Where is your God?’” (Ps 42:4). He realizes that many have lost their faith, have dropped out of the Church, are living in sin. Among them are his relatives and friends. God is no longer in their lives, and they face an eternity in hell. Further, in his work, he will be taunted, and he will experience disappointments and failures, even persecution and betrayal, but he will never doubt God’s call, and will persevere in his appointed task.

Third, in times of great trial and suffering, a holy warrior quickly goes to God for his consolation and encouragement and upbuilding. He goes to his prayer nook, to Eucharistic adoration, to the Eucharistic celebration, to the prayer assembly, even to pilgrim places. He can unabashedly shed tears before the Lord. “Those times I recall as I pour out my soul, when I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One, to the house of God” (Ps 42:5a). He leaves refreshed, with great gratitude to God, including (and especially for) the hardships and suffering. He rejoices with the people of God all around, with his brethren, and especially at Mass. He is right there, being assured once again by God, “amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.” (Ps 42:5b).

Fourth, a holy warrior is bold in proclaiming the gospel and in manifesting his faith. And if he suffers for the gospel, including physical suffering, he accepts it, is not embittered by it, and in fact rejoices in it. “My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:20). Like Paul, he wears his sufferings as a badge of honor. He is eager not to disappoint those who look to him as Christ’s servant. He is ready to give his all, even unto death.

Fifth, a holy warrior just wants the work of evangelization to be done, by himself as well as others. He does not look just to the interest of his own community, association, group or ministry, but to the good of the whole Church. “What difference does it make, as long as in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed?” (Phil 1:18a). He is out to serve God and not only his own family or community. In this he willingly partners, collaborates and networks with others. He helps empower others by his vision, experience and resources. He does not look to take credit, only looking to the Master’s approval. He knows we ought to be one Church doing the one work of the Kingdom. He rejoices in the evangelistic work and successes of others. “And in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1:18b).

Sixth, a holy warrior looks to be of great and committed service to his brethren, whether in a new ecclesial community, a parish or a Church organization. “And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil 1:25). He persists in this, knowing that selling a radical vision to them is difficult and challenging work. He as a servant leader serves simply to see brethren grow in Christ and deepen their faith. He exudes the joy of the gospel. He longs for them to live Christ, to be proud of their Catholic faith, and grow into greater maturity of faith, “so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me” (Phil 1:26).

Seventh, a holy warrior never seeks honor for himself. He is an authentic servant leader who does not look to power, position or perks. He is unlike many leaders in the Church who act otherwise, “choosing the places of honor at the table.” (Lk 14:7). He knows that the leader is a servant, the first is the last, the greatest is the least, and so will “go and take the lowest place” (Lk 14:10a). He is deeply aware of a basic spiritual principle: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 14:11). He is not a fool who thinks too highly of himself, but knows that apart from God’s mercy, grace and anointing, he is nothing. And so he remains humble. And if God uses him in power, even more is he humbled, as he knows it is only God who accomplishes great things through him. But he also does not have false modesty. He knows that God raises those who are bowed down, and honors those who are good and faithful servants. If God allows him to be recognized, acclaimed, given a higher responsibility, he accepts, in humility. He recognizes his Lord telling him, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” (Lk 14:10b).

Eighth, a holy warrior does what he says, honors his word and his commitments, tells the truth, does not present a false front, walks his talk. In other words, he is not a hypocrite. He is not like “the scholars of the law and Pharisees” (Lk 14:3), whom Jesus denounced as hypocrites. He is not legalistic like them, questioning the legality of curing on the sabbath (Lk 14:3b). He does and speaks what is right and just and true. He does not fall into the bane of politically correctness. He does not wait even for pastors or prelates to do what he knows to be right, as at times some of them do not give adequate guidance or direction that is truly spiritual. “But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him.” (Lk 14:4). He can speak boldly to those in authority, especially about spiritual matters, and challenges them with what is right to do. “Then he said to them, ‘Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?’” (Lk 14:5). He is ready to face the consequences of his bold speech or action.

Ninth, a holy warrior looks to God first and foremost, but also to the support and prayers of his brethren. He knows he is no super warrior, but a weak sinner totally dependent on God’s grace and the power of the Spirit, and on the prayers of God’s people, which he knows to be powerful, especially that of holy intercessors. He rejoices in the prayer support that his community gives him. “Indeed I shall continue to rejoice, for I know that this will result in deliverance for me through your prayers and support from the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:18c-19). He seeks their intercession for him and for his mission. He looks to be covered in prayers as he enters into battle.

Tenth, a holy warrior will serve on earth as much and as long as he can, but will have his sight ultimately fixed on heaven. He loves the brethren and the Church, but he loves to be with Christ his Lord more, not just in prayers, but in heaven. “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21). But he is not a romantic dreamer, but rather a man of action, not knowing how much time he has left to serve on earth. “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Phil 1:22a). He desires both, torn between wanting to do more for God’s people and the Church in this world, but longing to be with his Lord in heaven. “And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Phil 1:22b-23). He willingly awaits God’s timing, and in the meantime continues with productive work for the Kingdom. “Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.” (Phil 1:24). He is thankful for every brief moment of life, even as he looks to eternity in heaven.

O what a blessed privilege and call. Rise, holy warriors!

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