“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” Eph 6:11–13.
Journey to the Cross
The sacraments are Rabbi Yeshua’s channels of grace for us. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” Jn 6:56. “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” Jn 15:5.
In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God.
The Catholic faith is pure truth. Truth sets us free. God is radical and total. We need to immerse ourselves radically and totally in Catholic truth we approach the beauty and glory of God’s kingdom. We place all our hope in Rabbi Yeshua, the shining glory of God’s kingdom. When we do he will win for us the glory to come.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Every man and woman on earth has been subjected to temptation. Rabbi Yeshua does not actively will that we are subject to temptation, but he allows it so that we might show that our love for him is greater than our love of the “shiny objects” that Satan uses to tempt us.
Rabbi Yeshua even allowed Satan to tempt him, to show us how to deal with it. Rabbi Matityahu Mt 4:1–10 and Rabbi Lucas Lk 4:2–12 showed us how Rabbi Yeshua conquered the temptation. He as the Son of God could have destroyed Satan with a single thought, but he wanted to teach us where to find protection.
His primary protection was in quoting the Scriptures. Our Father in heaven told us through Isaiah that his words have real power: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” Is 55:11. But he also fasted during the temptation Mt 4:2; Lk 4:2 to show us how to exercise our strength to resist temptation.
Why would Rabbi Yeshua allow the demons to continue to tempt us? God‘s greatest commandment for us, in both the Old Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18 and New Mt 22:37–40, Jn 13:34 Testaments, was to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. It followed that we are also commanded to love his incarnate image Gen 1:27. We may imagine that we love God when we really love only the gifts he gives us, so he requires that we also love God‘s image in earthly life. In heaven we would live forever with God intensely present with us, and with all his saints and angels. If we do not love them truly and deeply we would not be as happy as we could be in heaven. Since God wills that heaven eternally remain a place of perfect happiness, he could not take such a person into heaven. We need to work on perfecting our love.
We can truly love only if we are free to not-love. So God gives us the free will to choose between love for him and love for the devil. If we freely choose God and reject Satan‘s temptations we are in that way choosing eternal life with God in heaven.
Also, most of us know that exercise against resistance increases strength. Satan‘s temptations, energetically resisted, strengthen our souls for heaven.
Rabbi Yeshua is our teacher of salvation. We are safe as long as we remain near him.
Free will is essential to love.
Agape love is the free decision to put God’s will above our own. We should love Rabbi Yeshua because he is magnificently good and beautiful, not because He is able to give us what we want, such as more pleasure in our earthly life or even joy in eternal life.
Rabbi Yeshua redeemed us by his obedient death on the Cross. He obediently allowed the Sanhedrin to demand his Crucifixion and Pilate to order it. If he had not freely willed it, but had been crucified anyway in the same way, at the same time, in the same place, there would have been no redemption. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” Rom 5:19. “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him” Phil 2:8. St. Bernard confirmed it: Non mors placuit sed voluntas sponte morientis (It is not the death itself that saved us, but his obedience unto death.)
With all his awesome authority, God is humble! The Father is humble. Rabbi Yeshua told us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” Mt 28:18 The Son is humble. “I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak” Jn 12:49. The Holy Spirit is humble. “The Spirit of truth … will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but … he will take what is mine and declare it to you” Jn 16:13–14. The Son of God, visiting us in this life, could have lived as the magnificent king he is. But he chose to live a humble life. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” Mt 8:20.
Free will is essential to obedience.
Rabbi Yeshua willed to be crucified. “I lay down my life, that I may take it again” Jn 10:17 “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” Jn 10:18. Rabbi Yeshua used the corrupt Sanhedrin of that time Mt 27:22 and the corrupt Rabbi Yehuda Ish Krayot to bring about his Final Sacrifice that redeemed the world. He told Pilate, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin” Jn 19:11. He had taught, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” Jn 12:24–25. And He did rise Mt 28:6, the evidence par excellence that he was God‘s promised King Mashiakh 1 Cor 15:14, 20.
Rabbi Yeshua redeemed us by his obedient death on the Cross. He obediently allowed the Sanhedrin to demand his Crucifixion and Pilate to order it. If he had not freely willed it, but had been crucified anyway in the same way, at the same time, in the same place, there would have been no redemption. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” Mt 5:19 “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him” Phil 2:8–9. St. Bernard confirmed it. “Non mors placuit sed voluntas sponte morientis” (It is not the death itself that saved us, but his obedience unto death).
With all his awesome authority, God is humble! The Father is humble. Rabbi Yeshua told us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”Mt 28:18. The Son is humble. “I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak” Jn 12:49. The Holy Spirit is humble. “The Spirit of truth … will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but … he will take what is mine and declare it to you” Jn 16:13–15. The Son of God, visiting us in this life, could have lived as the magnificent king he is. But he chose to live a humble life. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” Mt 8:20.
Free will is essential to truth.
Rabbi Yeshua announced the coming of the kingdom in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” Lk 4:18–19.
Rabbi Yeshua said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” Jn 8:31–32. The Jews replied, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jn 8:33. And Rabbi Yeshua explained, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” Jn 8:34. Rabbi Yeshua‘s death on the Cross freed us from slavery to sin and opened the kingdom of heaven for us.
Truth is essential to overcome lies.
The main entrance to the Auschwitz I death camp has a sign over it, Arbeit macht frei. “Work makes you free.” It encouraged prisoners to work harder by implying that those who worked very hard would eventually be freed. They soon discovered that it was a lie. Only death freed them from Auschwitz. Rabbi Yeshua explained, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies Jn 8:44. Satan is all about murder and lies.
Satan told the Jews as they entered Auschwitz that work would make them free. But, work never made Israel-in-Egypt free, and work never made Jews in Auschwitz free. As the Romans brought Rabbi Yeshua to Calvary Hill to be annihilated, the Nazis had brought the Jews to Auschwitz annihilate their race. Yet, Rabbi Yeshua brought truth even from the Holocaust.
Rabbi Paul told us, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified” Rom 8:28–30.
§ 381 “Man is predestined to reproduce the image of God’s Son made man, the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), so that Christ shall be the first-born of a multitude of brothers and sisters (cf. Eph 1:3–6; Rom 8:29).”
The Catholic dogma of the predestination of the elect is: “(a) the first grace of vocation, especially faith as the beginning, foundation, and root of justification; (b) a number of additional, actual graces for the successful accomplishment of justification; (c) justification itself as the beginning of the state of grace and love; (d) final perseverance or at least the grace of a happy death; (e) lastly, the admission to eternal bliss.”
Within this dogma are spiritual oases in which Catholic theologians engage in lively conversation. God foresees the free activity of each man and woman. We ourselves freely decide whether we will seek the radical transformation of our fallen nature necessary to live above human possibility in the New and Eternal Covenant through Rabbi Yeshua’s sanctifying grace that sustains us for the grace of final perseverance § 2849.
Situation Awareness (SA) is a military term for knowing what is going on around us. Here is a phrase from a Coast Guard training manual on Situation Awareness. Fighter pilots, for instance, are trained to know at all times what’s ahead of them, right, left, above, below and behind them. Six different directions. Every fighter pilot is taught, “Protect your six.”
I’d like to share with you a personal experience. Some years ago, my beautiful Irene and I were in the New York City area to attend a wedding. We had driven all the way across the United States from Los Angeles, arriving the evening before to be sure we’d get to the wedding on time. We checked into our hotel, went to a restaurant, and then returned to our room for a quiet evening. But, as we entered the room, Irene asked me to go to the hotel’s front desk to get something we needed.
As I approached the front desk I saw a bus pull up. I took care of what Irene needed, but something about the bus and its passengers flashed demons in my mind. I sat down in the hotel lobby near the front desk and watched the 40 or so passengers get off. They were all completely normal in their outer appearance, but my interior consciousness kept flashing demons. I watched silently as they all walked into a large gathering room.
When a fighter pilot sees the enemy he calls higher authority for help. So do soldiers in the Church Militant. After the last one was in and the door closed, I reported to the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying a Rosary for heaven’s protection for Irene and me, and for everyone in the hotel. I didn’t know whether the desk clerk was “one of them,” so I decided to pray in camouflage. I did not use Rosary beads, but simply counted on my fingers. I held my left hand over my right hand’s “counting fingers” to conceal what I was doing. And I carefully prayed mentally, not mouthing the words in any way. It was humanly impossible for anyone observing me to know what I was doing.
But, within a few minutes, a man came out of the gathering room, walked straight up to me, and politely said, “Would you please stop doing that. You’re disturbing us.” Of course I had no intention of stopping, but there were 40 of them. If the desk clerk was one of them they could have killed me with no witnesses, disposed of my body, and continued with whatever they had been doing. So I politely replied, “I’m sorry,” rose, and left. I returned to my room, locked the door, told Irene what had happened, and asked her to pray the Rosary with me. I wanted it to be the same Rosary, so she and I began praying from the point where I had been interrupted.
The Blessed Virgin Mary protected us. We went to sleep, awakened the next morning, checked out of the hotel, attended the wedding, and went back to Los Angeles. If I had not prayed the Rosary, who knows what they would have been able to do.
For the love of God, we soldiers of the Church Militant need to maintain Situation Awareness at every moment of our lives. Rabbi Kefa reminds us, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour” 1 Pet 5:8.
How We Communicate
Communication is perhaps the most central activity of in the armor of God. We communicate with God through prayer. § 2744 “Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.” Rabbi Yeshua assigned to Holy Mother Church her mission to witness, to communicate to all, Rabbi Yeshua‘s offer of eternal life in heaven to all who follow him. Rabbi Yeshua highlighted the importance of communication. “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” Mt 10:32–33. And we are all responsible for participating in some way in the New Evangelization. To do all this effectively, we need to keep our communication skills sharp.
A language, like any organism, lives by naturally absorbing vital new words faster than the obsolete ones die away. These new words are called loan words. The word parlor, for instance, came from the French parler, to converse. Gas was newly minted from the Greek chaos or “formless void.” Other new words are knitted together from existing words, like “railroad.” With a basic wordstock about half Germanic and half Romance, English has an insouciant way of picking up words from all over. The language has become a magnificent mosaic.
In the time of Beowulf and Roland every educated Englishman spoke and wrote Latin fluently. In fact, until recently the ability to use Latin freely was the chief mark of a fine education. Physicians wrote prescriptions in Latin and pharmacists interpreted them until just a few decades ago. Many words in the learned fields of divinity, law, philosophy and science moved directly from Latin to English, among them affidavit, alibi, animal, bonus, dictum, folio, inertia, innuendo, interim, item, memorandum, recipe, stimulus, vacuum, and veto. At the same time, words no longer needed, like croon or grifter, gradually pass out of a language. Loan words refresh a language, keeping it vital and up-to-date.
The Ten Commandments are exactly what they were three thousand years ago. Rabbi Yeshua instituted the Catholic Church two thousand years ago to teach the entire deposit of faith “once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3. She has taught the same Faith from that time to the present day. Every Sunday morning we recite the same Nicene Creed first taught at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. Keeping the Word of God pristine requires a language without loan words, a language no longer spoken, so that it’s meanings remain the same across the centuries. Holy Mother Church adopted Latin as her official language more than sixteen centuries ago and still publishes all her documents first as a “typical edition” in Latin, which is then used to make the various translations for worldwide use. Latin also remained a lingua franca, the common learned language among scholars until, in Rabbi Yeshua‘s wise providence, it was replaced by French in the eighteenth century and English in the late nineteenth.
In 1988 I completed a book called How We Communicate: The Most Vital Skill. I still stand by most of it today, but not quite all. In chapter 9, “Extrasensory Communication,” I used the most accurate secular research available to me during the 1980s, but now as a Catholic I would not have addressed that subject at all.
Just before the book went to the publisher, I was starting to sense that I was on a journey to the Catholic Church. I wanted to “plant a flag” in the manuscript that would indicate that I had been at least thinking about the Church. For years I’ve told people that the flag was in there but they had to search the book to find it. Now I’ll tell you that it’s on p. 167. But I’ll still let you find the paragraph.
Examination of Conscience
We Start With the Basics
The Catechism Definition: “Prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God. The reception of the Sacrament of Penance ought to be prepared for by such an examination of conscience” (p. 878).
§ 1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.
§ 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.
And Climb Toward Heaven
Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, wrote at least twice that I know of on Examination of Conscience. I call them the Marian Catechist version and the EWTN version. Both are the disciplined reflections of one of the twentieth century’s greatest priests. During my years of Catholic formation, the 1990s, the last decade of his earthly life, he was my primary mentor. Before proceeding further, may I encourage each of my site visitors to read both versions, decide which version better suits your temperament, and read that one in a very penetrating way.
Then turn to Fr. Thomas Dubay. He explains:
An analogy with modern warfare may be helpful here. High-level military officers plan their ground, air and sea campaigns in fine detail—including alternative responses to differing situations and responses of the enemy. The best officers leave little to chance (p. 103).
The spiritual life is, as Job 7:1 reminded us, a warfare. Vague wishes go nowhere. This is why many of the wise religious orders retain the practice they call particular examen. It is exactly what its name indicates. In this exercise the person focuses special daily attention on one fault to be corrected or one virtue to be acquired or improved upon: gossiping, overeating or bursts of temper, for example; or gentleness, humility or truth telling. At the same time each day (an aid to remembrance), in a prayerful atmosphere and place, this individual goes over the previous twenty-four hours, examining how he behaved on the one specific point. He notices how he succeeded or fell with regard to that one aim, what were the times and circumstances, who were the persons who triggered the successes or failures. Most likely it will not be many days before he sees a pattern emerging (if he did not already know it). This first part of particular examen can be done in one or two minutes (p. 103).
Then he spends another short time planning for the next twenty-four hours and preparing to do better on this one point. It is wise to begin particular examen with a short prayer for light to know oneself better, and to conclude it with another for vigilance and readiness aimed at success in execution. This whole exercise can be done in a few minutes. Its helpfulness is due to putting concern and determination into practice (p. 103).
Fr. Dubay on his page 104 explains that that Fr. Bernard Bro, in his study of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (p. 62), acquired a specific virtue and avoided a potential fault. She went far beyond a general wish to love her sisters in religion. She targeted a specific need for improvement and anticipated the time, persons and situations in which she would encounter the problem:
Thérèse had acquired the habit of smiling every time when, at work, she was disturbed by a Sister who came with or without reason, to ask her for some service. She noted this with humor in her last manuscript. She was ready for annoyance: “I want it; I count on it … so I am always happy” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, p. 62).
That is particular examen! Most Catholics can sustain it for a day or two. If we give ourselves to Rabbi Yeshua whole and entire in the New and Eternal Covenant we are committing our entire lives to heroic virtue. Often we make a great retreat or parish mission ready to go at it, but as time passes we again become enveloped in our ordinary lives and gradually return to where we had been. To some extent we can ask ourselves, “Have I continued going to Daily Mass every morning? Am I still praying the Rosary every morning? Am I treating my wife ‘as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’” Eph 5:25? And, “How, precisely, have I grown significantly during the past year?”
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” Jn 15:12. How did he love us? “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” Jn 15:13. Rabbi Yeshua asks some of us to lay down our lives as martyrs. He asks all of us to lay down our lives as living witnesses, to be his image and likeness Gen 1:27.
Is this asking more of our fallen race than we can give? It is if we try to do it all ourselves. But if we live the New and Eternal Covenant every day of our lives, going to Daily Mass and weekly Confession, and constantly asking Rabbi Yeshua for help, he will help us gradually to become his image. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Mt 19:26.
There is a great deal more to spiritual life than these few paragraphs! A Catholic seriously interested in the spiritual life would do well to read several of Father Dubay’s books, particularly Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Prayer Primer, Fire Within, Faith and Certitude, Authenticity, Happy Are You Poor,The Evidential Power of Beauty, and Seeking Spiritual Direction, as many as possible before the Blessed Sacrament.