Even worse are the encounters with rampant, destructive, predatory evil the likes of which we have seen so graphically in the terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and other acts of violence that seem almost commonplace and expected on the daily news. Add on top of it a general sentiment of skepticism at best--and outright hatred at worse--of Catholics who strive day in and day out to live to live the Truth of the Gospel and to carry it to all they meet, and very quickly a thought and an image begin to emerge. The thought is that, "something is wrong. It shouldn't be this way," and the image of a city under siege from all sides, yet continuing to rise from the ashes and carry the light of the Gospel to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Most of all, I cannot conceive how so many are able to convince themselves that the taking of innocent human life, before birth and in the intended safety of their mother's womb, is anything but the most evil and barbaric act of our time.
As I listened again to Peter Kreeft's talk (now a book), "How to Win the Culture War," and in picking up Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth for the fourth time (that's four times trying to finish, not four times through), I was reminded this week of a stark reality that is so easy to forget: We are behind enemy lines, operating like guerillas in enemy territory. This world is possessed, quite literally, by the prince of lies and darkness and his forces, whose primary aim is to rob us of our relationship with Christ and his unbounded, redeeming love and, in doing so, to destroy our souls.
The topic of the reality and ugliness of evil and sin is not something that is popular or "nice" to talk about in our society, where sinful, destructive--in short, evil--behavior is blamed on any number of external and psychological factors. In Jesus of Nazareth, in reflecting on the mission of the Twelve "to preach and have authority to cast out demons" (Mk 3:14f; Mt 10:1), the Holy Father speaks to the necessity of the second part of their mission that we so often today "find surprising, or even disturbing." Quoting Heinrich Schlier, he reminds us who our true enemies are:
"The enemies are not this or that person, not even myself. They are not flesh and blood...The conflict goes deeper. It is a fight against a host of opponents that never stop coming; they cannot really be pinned down and have no proper name, only collective denominations. They also start out with superior advantage over man, and that is because of their superior position, their position 'in the heavens' of existence...These enemies are, finally, all full of essential, deadly malice" (Brief an die Epheser, p. 291).
Who could fail to see here a description of our world as well, in which the Christian is threatened by an anonymous atmosphere, by something "in the air" that wants to make the faith seem ludicrous and absurd to him? And who could fail to see the poisoning of the spiritual climate all over the world that threatens the dignity of man, indeed his very existence?
As Christians, we are called to step each day onto a deadly battlefield, with the "whole armor of God" to stand "against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:10-12). Armed with faith, and the assurance of victory that is given to us in the Resurrection and the Eucharist, let us march bravely into this fight, to rescue the countless souls who may be waiting for us to be their first taste of his love, and of his victory that has already been won.
Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle...
St. Joseph and Holy Mary, terror of demons, PRAY FOR US.
Our Father...deliver us from evil.