Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is Your Enemy?

Yesterday, as I read Psalm 59 at Mass, I was made uncomfortable with parts of the passage. It said, “Rescue me from my enemies, oh my God; from my adversaries defend me. Rescue me from evildoers; from bloodthirsty men save me. For behold they lie in wait for my life; mighty men come together against me.”

This struck me as incredibly strong language and I wondered how this could be relevant to my life. I thought to myself, “Lord, I don’t think I have any enemies or someone who would be out to destroy me. Who are these evildoers in my life? Perhaps there are some who are mildly irritated with me about something I said. Maybe they have been hurt by something I inadvertently did. But an enemy? I don’t think so.” However, I began to wonder why the Holy Spirit seemed to make these words jump off the pages. Why did I need to pay attention to this psalm?

Perhaps the “enemy” is something that I cannot see with my physical eyes. Perhaps I am actually blinded by this enemy, so that I don’t even realize that the adversary is someone with whom I feel very comfortable. I’m talking about sin. I know, it makes me squirm, too. But it’s very real. However, no one really talks about it much anymore. The word” sin” is almost antiquated. These days sin is referred to as a personality quirk or a weakness. Sin is such a strong word. It means I actually choose to do something outside of God’s love. Why would I do such a thing? Maybe it would be good to name these enemies. If I put a name on them I might be able to better understand who it is that is truly out to destroy me and my relationship with God. We must know our enemy before we can fight it, right?

The Church gives us seven names.
They are “Pride”, “Envy”, “Gluttony”, “Lust”, “Anger”, “Greed”, and “Sloth”. They are also known as the seven deadly sins. They sound so ominous, don’t they? They couldn’t possibly be out to overtake me, could they? I mean, I’m a good and decent person and I try my best to follow God’s will. I don’t need to be bothered with this, do I? But it’s for this very reason that I should very much pay attention. Because if I am working to build up the Kingdom of God, if I care for the poor and needy, and if I love and work for peace and justice then I become a prime target.

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the ways of the world. I mean we’re living in it, we have to earn a wage to support our families, we interact with people every single day. We find ourselves in challenging situations all the time. This earthly life is not easy. Temptations are all around us and sometimes I feel like my senses have been assaulted. Watching some television programs, movies, even the daily political rants, are ways that can open the door to the enemy. If we are not careful in guarding our spiritual health, then those seven deadly sins can sneak in when we least expect it, and in the blink of an eye, the enemy can strike. At first we may not be able to feel the blow. But after while, the mind becomes used to seeing scantily clad women, improper relationships, violence, casual drug use and eventually, our senses are dulled to, yes, sin. There’s that word again.

The enemy is indeed all around. So what do we do about it? First of all, we do not fear. We must be on our guard and alert. We need to pray. Pray with our whole heart for protection. In our own strength we are totally powerless against these enemies. But the Church gives us so many “weapons” with which to fight. We have the Mass, receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ to strengthen us; we have our Mother Mary to pray for us along with the saints who intercede for us. They are like our older brothers and sisters who are encouraging us to fight the good fight of faith. And finally, we must never lose heart if we fall because we are also given the sacrament of reconciliation that draws us into the merciful heart of Jesus where we are forgiven. The graces we receive help us to combat further “attacks.”

The end of the psalm that caught my attention says, “Oh my strength! For you I watch; for you, Oh God You are my stronghold. As for my God, may His mercy go before me; may He show me the fall of my foes.”

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word. You reveal so much of who You are through it. Please watch over us, protect us from our enemies, and help us to battle our sinfulness with the virtues of humility, patience, temperance, chastity, kindness, charity and the unwearied zeal to do good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Waiting. It’s a part of life. It’s a big part of life. Would we be shocked to discover how much time we spend waiting? I think so. We wait in line at the grocery store, we wait in line for movie tickets, we wait for documents to download onto our computers, and we wait for the interminable long red light to change to green. We wait at the airport when there’s a long flight delay. We wait for a dear friend who’s always late to show for a lunch date. We wait for the phone to ring with good news about a job. We wait on hold to resolve a billing issue. We wait nine months for our babies to be born. We wait with our kids to catch the bus and we wait for them to return safely into our arms. As they grow into teenagers, we wait up for them to come home from being out with their friends. We wait in hospital waiting rooms searching for a sign of the doctor to tell us our loved one made it out of surgery. The list is endless, is it not?

The question is, “How do you handle waiting?” Do you pace the floor, or do you find yourself getting angry? Do you keep your eye on the clock or the calendar wondering when the waited object will come? Do you worry until you feel sick? Do you smoke feverishly or drink a beer or glass of wine to ease the anxiety? Do you grab the chips and salsa to calm those nerves? Do you complain to whomever will listen to your rants? I’ve been know to do all of the above at one time or another. But if we spend a good chunk of our lives waiting, then wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a less negative, a less destructive way of dealing with it? And could it be possible that waiting is a good thing?

Waiting involves that special virtue of patience. Have you ever heard the little expression that says, “Lord, give me patience, but hurry!”? Today’s world is a fast-paced one. We have become used to instant gratification. Whatever we need is at our fingertips. But our loving God gives us many opportunities to grow in the fruits of the spirit, one of which is patience. Therefore, we must learn to wait, not only in the physical realm for our many needs, but we must also wait on God to answer our prayers. We pray and then we wait. Where is God? What is taking Him so long? Doesn’t He hear us? Of course you know He does, but whatever we need, we need it NOW!

Years ago, someone I knew treated me very badly. She was in my life for good but it was very unsettling and upsetting to be around her. One day I was ready to write her off, to make a decision to let go of her insults and rude behavior. When I discussed this action with a priest friend, he asked, “If you don’t love her, who will?” I wasn’t expecting this insight and was taken aback by the truth of his question. He said, “You don’t have to be with her all the time, but send her notes and little gifts to let her know you are thinking of her.” I took this advice to heart and did as he said. Twenty years later, this person has finally come to love me and has been so grateful for all that I have done for her over the years. She has grown into a most pleasant and agreeable woman and is absolutely delightful to be around. She is nearing the end of her days and is at peace. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had abandoned her because I felt unappreciated and hurt. The wait was definitely worth it! God’s timing was perfect. He not only gave this person time to become more accepting and grateful, but He gave me many opportunities to die to myself and rely on His grace and strength to love someone who was unlovable. The waiting involved stillness, times of prayer, a daily turning to God for help, trusting that He would give me all I needed to endure. But it also involved actions of love on my part.

Waiting is a big part of our lives. It always will be. But we have a choice on how we choose to wait. Will we curse those precious seconds that fly by? Will we fret and worry about why things aren’t going our way? Or will we quiet ourselves, whisper a prayer to our Heavenly Father, and trust that He will give us exactly what we need at exactly the right time?

<< Isaiah 40:31 >>

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.