Monday, July 27, 2020

Our fight against evil is only made real if we see evil not just as a force or an energy, but as a person. The very same applies to our love for and relationship with God.

“I am not religious but I am spiritual”. This is often touted as an adage by well-intentioned millennials or ‘nones’ and their peers.  There is a lot that is packed into that statement, and it is tempting to just take that at face value, and not probe deeper.  But if we do probe, it will uncover quite a lot that lies hidden behind that statement, and one of these beliefs is that formal religion or institutions of religion are stuffy and serve to only limit one’s freedom.  Even that sentiment could be the material of a dedicated blog entry itself, but that will best be left for another time.

Another sentiment that lies behind that statement is also the belief that God is a force or an energy, and as such, doesn’t require an institution or any formality at any level in believing in it. On that note I am fully on board and agree with it 100%.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There is absolutely no necessity to belong to any formal religion with its specific doctrinal teachings on God if God is only a force or an energy.  

However, the Catholic Christian’s approach to God, and the Catholic Christian’s understanding of God is that God isn’t just a force and certainly more than just an energy.  We have it from God himself, in and through the person of Jesus Christ who is God incarnate, that God is a person.  Not only is God a person, but he is a unity of persons, and the persons of God desire and hope to have a deep and intimate relationship with every single human being.  One would never think of relating seriously to a mere force or energy, but only with a person.

As well, it was revealed by Jesus that evil isn’t just a force or an energy either.  Jesus tells us specifically that evil too is a person and he has a name, and the chief of his descriptions is that he is the Father of Lies, the direct antithesis of God who is the Father of Love.  

The devil’s reality becomes weakened and his thereat to our human flourishing in virtue and holiness becomes limp and with the power of milquetoast when we only view the devil as a force or an energy as well. The truth that we are in a battle against the devil while on this side of heaven, and sin becomes much more apparent and concrete the more we realize that he is a person, just as our relationship with God becomes more real and effortful if we view God as a person who loves us back in a personal way.

One of the devil’s greatest achievements is to have human beings deny his existence.  When the enemy in any battle achieves the ability to stay under the radar and stay undetected, it gives the opponent little reason to stay alert and vigilant.  As well, there is always the tendency to take a very laxed stance to be on high alert, let alone be ready 24/7 to fight when the enemy shows up in whatever form. Apart from being the Father of Lies, the devil is also the Master of Deceit, and has even known to take the form of Jesus himself to hoodwink saints in the Church’s history.

It is indeed lamentable that there is in general a very much weakened front on the side of the Catholic Church that forms the Church Militant in the lifelong fight against the devil and his minions. The tried and tested efforts at weekly fasts, penances and mortifications, whilst weakening the physical body, build up the spiritual muscles that makes our fight against the supernatural enemy strong and robust.  Yet, these are only sedulously practiced by Catholics few and far between. I am very certain that this is largely because the belief in the reality of the devil as a real person has become so watered down and diminished, causing many to think that moderns who still believe in the existence in a personal evil are remnants from a less sophisticated era.  

Having said this, we need to caution against being so fearful and timorous that we attribute everything that causes us to experience affliction and suffering to the devil himself.  That would make us not just spiritual pessimists but also even superstitious, making us more paranoid than free, and we may easily end up giving the devil much more power than we should.  Our call as Christians is to move from paranoia to metanoia.

If we are strengthened in our united fight against the devil and his evil plans to steal souls from God by seeing him not just as a maleficent force but a real person, the converse is true.  We will be also strengthened in our relationship with God and wanting to do his will in our lives the more we see God not just as a force or an energy but a real person with whom we can truly relate to and with.

It should come as no surprise then that catholic church has always given the Eucharist such a prominent place in our worship of God for so many reasons, one of which is that each time we are present at the sacrifice of the Mass, God gives himself to us in a real and concrete way when we consume him by partaking of Holy Communion.  With the ingestion of God who is truly present in every consecrated Host, we are relating to God in a most intimate and sublime way, where we become who we consume.  In truth, there is a holy consummation that takes place each time a communicant receives the Eucharist in a worthy manner.  

As such, there is an intrinsic difference between viewing on-line Masses and coming to participate at Masses physically. There is a difference between receiving the Eucharistic Lord in Holy Communion, and receiving him virtually. Though there is a blanket dispensation for all Catholics to come for Mass on Sundays due to the COVID-19 situation, if we can and if our health and age permits, we should take every opportunity to avail ourselves to relate so personally with our God in the Mass as far as the provisions of the authorities (civil and ecclesial) allow.  Unfortunately, what we notice from the rather dismal numbers who register for seats at our Masses since our coming out of the Circuit-Breaker period show that a very large number of Catholics are very reticent in weaning themselves off the virtual Masses.  

It is my fervent prayer that Catholics the world over will not allow the availability of on-line Masses to weaken their personal relationship with God.  Otherwise, we may end up only believing in God as a force or an energy, and soon, to have only a virtual relationship with God, much to our eventual detriment. 

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