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.