by Fr Richard Heilman | July 17, 2017 12:56 PM
One day, I was meeting with someone who surprised me by asking a question that is not asked a lot (ever?). He didn’t ask, “How can I be a better person?” or, “How can I be a better disciple?” or even, “How can I be a better Christian?” Out of the clear blue, he asked, “I want to be supernaturally strong … how can I be supernaturally strong?”
In my mind, I said, “Yes!! That’s the best question!!” Out loud, I said to him, “I know the answer to that question. You want to be what I call, ‘God Strong.’ To do that, you need to “Get in the Zone.” Here … let me lay it out for you” (I’ll conclude by laying that out).
You see? This is the missing link, in our times. We’ve taken our eye off of the ball. We’ve over-intellectualized our faith, while we’ve watered it all down, spiritually, and moved full-on into the “soft bigotry of low expectations” … this, while we overlooked the very core or essence of who we are.
St. Paul said, “Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him … For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God … For you … received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”
This is a call to conversion and penance that does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance” (CCC 1420).
We’re called to bring Christ to a waiting world. That doesn’t mean we are to just bring an “idea” of what Christ is all about, or even do our best to mimic who Christ is. It means we, literally, bring a supernatural power – His Spirit – who is Christ made manifest in each one of us … IF we lay ourselves open to receive the Spirit of God … If we say, “Yes!”
Listen … We are at war. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand rightly called it a “Secular War on the Supernatural.” All the myriad life-and-death battles being fought on the socio-political and religious fronts today are mere symptoms of the root conflict – Satan and his secular army are at war with the supernatural. And, in this war, the vast majority of us are like a bunch of buck privates running around like chickens with their heads cut off … not following orders, with no supernatural body armor and no supernatural weapons … we’re sitting ducks for the enemy. Why? Because we think we can fight supernatural realities with our natural means. Or, we simply do not believe in supernatural realities.
In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul warns of these times:
But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
This has been the campaign of the devil all along … root out any belief in the supernatural which then gives the devil the upper hand in this war. The strong insurgency began with the pride-filled, so-called Enlightenment of the 18th century that paved the way for the Communist Russian Revolution which was unleashed in … wait for it … 1917. What are the errors of Russia? Communism is an atheistic ideology that ultimately denies God’s natural order and natural law, which God inscribed on the hearts of men. Ultimately, it denies the supernatural.
In 1917 … in the days between Our Lady of Fatima’s June 13 apparition and July 13 apparition, Pope Benedict XV released his timely encyclical, Humani Generis Redemptionem on June 15, 1917. It would prove to be prophetic. In it he addressed an issue that he “looked upon as a matter of the greatest and most momentous concern” …
“If on the other hand, we examine the state of public and private morals, the constitutions and laws of nations, we shall find that there is a general disregard and forgetfulness of the supernatural, a gradual falling away from the strict standard of Christian virtue, and that men are slipping back more and more into the shameful practices of paganism.”
So, you can see, Our Lady appears as this war against the supernatural is erupting. Out of love for her children, she is pulling out all of the stops, including reminding us of the consequence of lives lived away from God – she showed them Hell.
In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively while virtue and character and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized while ours are clearly not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke is said to have warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Yes, we are being called upon to fight the mother of all wars against powerful evil spirits in the heavenly realm, but we are sure to meet our demise unless we discover these battles cannot be won without first acquiring God’s strength and mighty power. St. Paul writes …
“Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground” (Eph 6:10-12)
Okay, so how are we to become supernaturally strong? How do we become “God Strong?”
“Go Weapons Hot” is a military command that means to make whatever preparations are necessary so that when you pull the trigger, something happens. In spiritual terms, are we using live ammunition or are we firing blanks? In other words, are we making the preparations necessary to ensure that our efforts to combat evil and rescue souls are ignited by the fire of the Holy Spirit?
What are the preparations necessary so that “something (efficacious) happens” in the war “against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above”? The word “hot” (“Go Weapons Hot”) gives us an excellent acronym for understanding how we are best positioned to receive the free offer of God’s supernatural grace: H.O.T. = Humility, Obedience, Trust.
Humility: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
St. Ignatius of Loyola said,
“There is no doubt that God will never be wanting to us, provided that he finds in us that humility which makes us worthy of his gifts, the desire of possessing them, and the promptitude to co-operate industriously with the graces he gives us.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time, it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).
The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!” God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced (CCC 1431, 1432).
I’ve come to understand that we have (actually, I believe this is the work of the devil), by and large, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:
“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent, the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).
As you can see, the entry point into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – into the spiritual life – is “Fear of the Lord.”
What is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …
“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear, it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, your ruling fills me with fear’” (Ps 119:120).
St. Paul writes, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). This is the person who acts only by using his or her human faculties (intelligence and will) and who therefore can be wise only in the things of the world. He remains superficial and worldly. This is a heart that has hardened to the Presence of God. The prophet Jeremiah writes “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt land and empty earth” (Jer 17:5-6).
However, throughout the Bible (e.g., Ps 1, Jer 17, Rev 22) we are told that the blessed ones are those who trust God and his ordinances; they are like trees planted beside streams of water. These trees are full of life (their leaves stay green) and they fulfill their purpose (produce fruit) even in the face of life’s challenges. The commentary on 1 Corinthians in the Navarre Bible states, “The spiritual man is the Christian reborn by the grace of God; grace elevates his faculties to enable him to perform actions which have a supernatural value — acts of faith, hope, and charity. A person who is in the state of grace is able to perceive the things of God, because he carries with him the Spirit in his soul in grace, and he has Christ’s mind, Christ’s attitude. ‘We have no alternative,’ St. Josemaria Escriva teaches, ‘there are only two possible ways of living on this earth: either we live a supernatural life, or we live an animal life. And you and I can only live the life of God, a supernatural life’ (Friends of God).”
Obedience: St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “The power of obedience! The lake of Gennesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again to the water and they caught ‘a huge number of fish.’ Believe me: the miracle is repeated each day.”
The *key* that unlocks the gateway to paradise – Divine Presence – is *obedience.* You want the paradise of the *original harmony* of the Garden of Eden? Then, get *in sync* with God, as Mary demonstrated with some of her first words, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord … ” as well as her famous last words at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.”
There can be no “mixture” in your loyalty to God; no loss of integrity. Either you are completely on board with Divine Revelation – Sacred Scripture & Sacred Tradition – or you are not. One singular act of picking and choosing what we don’t believe, disqualifies us for receiving God’s supernatural power. Why? Because He cannot trust us as His ambassador.
And … he will give us the power of His grace all the more, if we go beyond minimal expectations to “obedience done well.”
In his classic spiritual work, The Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales wrote:
In so far as divine love beautifies our souls, and makes us pleasing to His divine Majesty, it is called grace; in so far as it gives us strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it reaches such a degree of perfection, that it makes us not only do the good, but do so carefully, frequently and readily, then it is called devotion.
Trust: St. Alphonsus Liguori taught: “He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.”
Trust is critical and, very possibly, the most difficult in our times. Why? Because there are so many forces attempting to convince us that we are insane for believing in a supernatural power, or even miracles.
Jesus would ask those looking for a miracle, “Do you believe that I can do this?” Consider Matthew 9:27-30:
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed [him], crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened.
We must not divorce this statement from Jesus’ question, for the two must go together; while Christ is perfectly able to do certain things for us, our faith must be operative if we are to prove His ability in our own lives. He is able to do certain wonderful things for you, but you must trust Him to do them, and the measure of your trust will determine the measure of your experience of His ability. This truth can be stated as follows:
“I am able….according to your faith” (Matthew 9:28-29).
Now that we have humbled ourselves, dedicated ourselves to obedience and have full trust and confidence in the miracle power of God, how do we receive God’s power?
It’s easy. You need to “Get in the Zone.” In other words, you need to CARE enough to make yourself “well-positioned” to receive what God, so desperately, wants to give you.
C – Confession: Is being in God’s power everything for you? Being in a “State of Grace”? This is humble submission to God’s supernatural power, believing we are lost and vulnerable without it.
While we will never be perfect, once you have confessed with a full contrite spirit, and the priest prays the words of absolution over you, you are made “perfectly pure.” You are as pure as you were when the waters of Baptism were poured over your head.
NOW, you are a “worthy vessel” to receive the Divine Life; the supernatural power of God! The torrent of God’s grace comes flooding into your soul.
A – Adoration: Do you “need” to be near to Him whenever you can? Are these quiet special moments before the Blessed Sacrament a Divine Intimacy that you long for?
Saint Alphonsus Liguori said, “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.”
To the unbeliever, kneeling before a piece of bread is lunacy. In part, this is why Adoration is so powerful. It is a profound act of faith to acknowledge “this is God.” And, if we believe that, in the deepest recesses of our heart, would we not look for any and every opportunity to be in His Presence? Do not think that God will not favor those who do.
R – Regina (Our Queen): Do you love the person who was chosen to be the Mother of God? Do you love who God loves so much? Have you humbly accepted her role as Mediatrix of all graces? Are you doing what she asked of us?
There are three ways, in particular, that Mary has given us to express our devotion and obedience to her call …
A prophecy attributed to Saint Dominic further underlines this importance: “One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.”
“While St. Maximilian Kolbe’s push for consecration was the largest,” according to Father Michael Gaitley, “the one going on right now is the second-largest ever, and the largest since St. Maximilian Kolbe’s.” Father Gaitley went on to say “now is the perfect time” to consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary. He said the “culture of death is strangling our country right now.” He added that Our Lady is trying to “bring Christ back there,” saying she comes when things look hopeless. There’s a “historical reason” for the new push to consecration. Fr. Gaitley said. “there’s something happening, something moving, something ahead,” while no one knows specifically what is coming. “Our Lady wants to be embracing all of us,” he added.
E – Eucharist: Do you take the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass “seriously?” If you take God seriously, He will take you seriously. Is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the source and summit of your life? Do you offer due reverence by how you dress and how you receive our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist? Remember, your children are watching.
Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.”
Care about your state of grace, care about Divine Intimacy in Adoration, care about the Mother of God, care about the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass … and WATCH what happens!! You will be “well-positioned” to be a “God Strong Warrior for Christ!”
Please bring your supernatural strength with you as we join with tens of thousands of people to pray for our nation … Novena for Our Nation, from August 15 to October 7. Sign-up for daily reflections and prayers at novenaforournation.com.
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