It was on the gridiron in the 1960s that coach Vince Lombardi, fully grounded in this superior ideal, compelled his men to strive for greatness, never settling for second best. At the very same time, the Church Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were calling upon all us to engage a spiritual heroism – Universal Call to Holiness – not settling for a second or third-rate spiritual life.
“The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and everyone of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life: ‘Be you perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and with all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 40).
The Gospels stories show how Jesus touched people in ways that made them question the direction of their lives. Some turned away because his challenge seemed to be too hard. But many others were so moved by his mission and ministry that they were impelled to search for a more perfect way of living and being. Where do you stand? Are you ready to put it all on the line? This means nothing less than to “do what God is calling you, from the depths of your being, to do; to rouse yourself to action on behalf of the Kingdom” (Fr. Robert Barron, Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues). This is the call to enlist in God’s elite fighting force of warrior saints!
In the movie, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Aragorn calls his men to stand against the forces of evil. Let this call be ours:
“My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!”
C.S. Lewis said, “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). By our baptism, we have been “commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to fulfill a most dramatic mission; it is the mission of saving souls. This mission cannot be accomplished without entering into conflict with ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’ It is not a mission for the fainthearted or for those who wish to take the wide road to heaven. It is the path of warfare, of spiritual battle” (Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, Exorcism and the Church Militant. P. xxvi).
That makes this a fight to reclaim surrendered ground. It is a fight to reclaim the surrendered ground of our own soul that grows more content to be led by our worldly passions and appetites; placing ease and comfort ahead of the challenging call to train for holiness and spiritual warfare. And, it is a fight to reclaim the surrendered ground of the souls of our loved ones, many of whom have almost completely abandoned God in favor of worldly allurements, even as they are now at risk for eternal damnation (Warrior Ethos: “I will never leave a fallen comrade”).
The time is now. The kingdom is at hand. This day we fight!
(Church Militant Training Series continues with next post)
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