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We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood: The Spiritual World and the Events of History
January 7, 2021
Our nation is again in turmoil, reminding me just how frequently in recent days I’ve had to write posts about the upheavals of our times. Nevertheless, I do not wish to opine on the events that have transpired this week. I will leave that to those who are more proficient at such commentary. I do, however, want to simply offer a brief reminder on the genuine causes of the dramas of history which we are now witnessing.
At the risk of oversimplifying, there are some well intentioned individuals today who seem to believe that the causes of the current turmoil in our nation are as simple as electing too many representatives of the opposite political party, passing the wrong laws, and the existence of corrupt politicians. The solutions, they imagine, are just as simple. Elect the right representatives, sign the right petitions, attend the right rallies, and pass the right laws, and all will be well in America. In such a worldview, both the problems and the solutions to our current crisis are a matter of human efforts. Utopia is always only one more election cycle away.
A truly Catholic mind, however—one steeped in the reality of the spiritual world—will recognize that the current dramas of world history are not a matter of generational differences, poor philosophy, economic theories, constitutional interpretations, or flawed political affiliations. That is, we will recognize that the events of our times are not causes as much as they are symptoms. For the dramas of history are but temporal manifestations of the battle between the the spirits of the age and the angelic hierarchies.
Behind the veil of temporal events rages a tremendous battle between good and evil. The human figures that seem so significant in world decisions are often but pawns of forces far more powerful and more hidden. In exchange for power, these lost souls have surrendered themselves to evil beings far more monstrous than even they can comprehend. As wicked or corrupt as these men and women may be, they are not the real enemy. St. Paul is unequivocal: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but 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. 6:12).
What we call reality is really only a pale shadow of higher realities. Angels, archangels, and demonic hosts are not superstitious figments of a more benighted age. They are tremendously real. More intensely real, in some ways, than we are—though it is shocking how few, even among professing Catholics, believe in them. Yes, spiritual entities are real, both angelic and demonic. And even at this moment, these titanic spirits are locked in a combat both terrifying and world-altering.
What of us? Are we mere pawns as well? No. Not in the least.
Evil enslaves and erodes our freedom. Those who ally themselves with it surrender their will and agency. But goodness, on the other hand, sets free. Through the divine gift of freedom, we can enter into this great cosmic contest, uniting ourselves to the sacrifice of Christ and allying ourselves with the forces of light. We can, through our actions, our prayers, our sacrifices, our penitence, and our devotion, aid the angelic hosts in their struggle against the great destroyer. Likewise, however, we can increase the measure of evil through our sins of lust and slander, our indifference, our weakness or our cowardice. The one thing we should never do is believe that we do not matter.
In this great war between good and evil, Christ, our captain, has promised us eternal victory. The forces of darkness may raged, but they are doomed. The Virgin Mary, too, shines forth both fair and terrible, leading an army arrayed for battle. She it is who will crush the head of the serpent. Let us then not make the mistake of believing that our dramas are a mere matter of laws and politicians, bankers or businessmen. These wicked men are more to be pitied than blamed.
No, the reality of current events is not what the nightly news will tell you. It is truly cosmic in scope—a battle between good and evil reaching to the highest heights of heaven. And it is time for each of us to choose our side.
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