FEAST OF THE ARCHANGELS MICHAEL, GABRIEL, AND RAPHAEL
THE CHILD OF FEAR
FEAR comes in many forms: feelings of inadequacy, insecurity in one’s gifts, procrastination, lack of faith, loss of hope, and erosion of love. This fear, when married to the mind, begets a child. It’s name is Complacency.
I want to share a profound letter I received the other day:
I have noticed (especially with myself, but with others also) a spirit of Complacency which seems to affect those of us who are not afraid. For many of us (especially as of late), it seems that we’ve been sleeping for so long that we’ve only awakened now to find that the battle has closed in all around us! Due to this, and due to the “busyness” in our lives, we exist in a state of confusion.
Resultantly, we are left not knowing what battle to start fighting first (pornography, drug addictions, child abuse, social injustice, political corruption, etc., etc., etc.), or even how to begin fighting it. Currently, I am finding that it takes ALL my energy just to keep my own life free of sin, and my own family strong in the Lord. I know that this is no excuse, and that I cannot give up, but I’ve just been so frustrated lately!
It seems that we spend days in a state of confusion over seemingly unimportant things. What begins in clarity in the morning, quickly fades into a haze as the day progresses. As of late, I find myself mentally and physically stumbling around looking for unfinished thoughts and tasks. I believe that there are things at work against us here —things of the enemy, and also things of man. Maybe it’s just how our brains are responding to all the pollution, radio waves and satellite signals that our air is filled with; or maybe it’s something more —I don’t know. But I do know one thing for sure— that I’m sick of seeing all that is wrong with our world today, and yet I feel powerless to do anything about it.
Kill the root, and the whole tree dies. Melt fear, and complacency goes up in smoke. There are many ways to work up courage—you can read Parts I and II of this series over several times, for starters. But I know of only one way to uproot fear:
Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Love is that flame which melts fear. It is not enough to mentally acquiesce to Christ’s existence and divinity. As Scripture warns, even the devil believes in God. We must do more than think of God; we must become like Him. And His name is Love.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:4-5)
We are to put on the mind of Christ. In that regard, Part II is merely the "prologue" to this meditation.
What is His mind? We need to answer this in the context of the above letter I’ve shared with you, in what is happening in the world as chaos increases, and in the warnings of possible chastisements or persecution on the horizon (see Trumpets of Warning!).
THE GARDEN OF AGONY
The Garden of Gethsemane was a mental hell for Christ. He faced perhaps His greatest temptation to turn and run away. Fear, and its illegitimate child Complacency, were beckoning the Lord to come away:
"What is the use? Evil is increasing. No one is listening. Even those closest to you have fallen asleep. You are alone. You cannot make a difference. You cannot save the whole world. All this suffering, labor, and sacrifice… for what? Come away. Come back to the mountains where you and the Father walked through lilies and streams…"
Yes, come back to Mount Good Old Days, Mount Comfort, and Mount Pleasant.
And if not the mountaintops, there are plenty of caves where you can hide. Yes, hide and pray, pray, pray.
Yes, hide, escape from this hideous world, fallen and lost. Wait out your days in peace and quiet.
But this is not the mind of Christ.
There is a wonderful saying:
GOD IS FIRST
MY NEIGHBOUR SECOND
I AM THIRD
This became the prayer of Christ in Gethsemane, though He said it in a different way:
…not my will but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
And with that, Christ reached out, placing the Chalice of Love to His lips, and began to drink the wine of suffering—suffering for His neighbor, suffering for you, for me, and for all those people who rub you the wrong way. An angel, (perhaps Michael, or Gabriel, but I think Raphael) lifted Jesus to His feet, and as I wrote in Part I, Love began to conquer one soul at a time.
The Gospel writers never mention it, but I think Christ would look back over His shoulder at you and me, as He carried His Cross, and whisper through bloodied lips, "Follow Me."
…he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)
And so here you are with a muddied mind, confused and uncertain as to where to go, what to do, what to say. Look around you… do you recognize the Garden now? Do you see at your feet the drops of sweat and blood which fell from the brow of Christ? And there—there it is: the same Chalice which Christ now invites you to drink from. It is the Chalice of Love.
What Christ asks of you now is really very simple. One step at a time, one soul at a time: begin to love.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)
And enemies too.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them. (Luke 6:28, 32-33)
To be a Christian isn’t a matter of dropping memorized bible quotes at the feet of pagans. Sometimes, yes, this is necessary. But Jesus defined love in
the most remarkable terms: "to lay down one’s life." It is to serve another before yourself. It is to be patient and kind. It means never envying another’s blessings, or being proud, arrogant, or rude. Love never insists on its own way, and is not irritable or resentful, holding grudges or unforgiveness. And when love has matured, it is peaceful, kind, joyful, good, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.
Already, I see my own frowning reflection in the Chalice. Alas, how far I have fallen short of Love! And yet, Christ has still provided a way for us to add to this Cup. Says St. Paul,
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church… (Colossians 1:24)
What can you or I possibly add to Christ’s sufferings? If we have not served others, if we have not washed the feet of family, if we failed to be patient, gentle, and merciful (didn’t Christ fall three times?), then we must add the only sacrifice we can:
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
This path of love can only be walked in a spirit of trust and surrender: trusting in God’s love and mercy for you personally, and surrendering to Him what is weak, unworthy, and broken. Emptying yourself, as Christ emptied Himself each step of The Way… until the sweat of humility runs down your brow, filling your eyes. This is when you begin to walk by faith, and not by sight.
The victory that conquers the world is our faith. (1 John 5:4)
You hear the angry crowds, catch the glances of rejection, and feel the odd blow of a cruel word… as you serve, serve, and serve some more.
The victory that conquers the world is your faith.
Stripped of reputation, crowned with ignominy, and nailed with misunderstanding, the sweat turns into blood. The sword of your own weakness pierces your heart. Now faith becomes dark, as dark as a tomb. And you hear the words ringing in your own soul once again… "What is the use…?"
The victory that conquers the world is your faith.
This is where you must persevere. For though you may not recognize it, that which has died in you (selfishness, self-centeredness, self-will etc.) is experiencing resurrection (kindness, generosity, self-control etc.). And where you have loved, you have planted seeds.
We know of the Centurion, the Thief, the weeping women who were moved to repentance by Christ’s love. But what about those other souls along the Via Dolorosa who returned home, spattered with the blood of Love, those holy seeds which scattered upon their hearts and minds? Were they watered weeks later by the Holy Spirit and Peter on Pentecost? Were those souls among the 3000 saved that day?
BE NOT AFRAID!
The Way is lined with souls who will reject, even hate you. A chorus of voices is growing louder and louder in the distance, "Crucify him! Crucify her!" But as we leave our own Garden of Gethsemane, we depart not only with the Archangel Raphael to comfort, but with the Good News of Gabriel on our lips and the sword of Michael to safeguard our souls. We have the sure steps of Christ to walk in, the example of the martyrs to strengthen us, and the prayers of the saints to encourage.
Your role in this hour, as the sun sets on this era, is not to hide, but to set out on The Way with confidence, courage, and great love. Nothing has changed, simply because we may be entering the final Passion of the Church. The greatest expression of Christ’s love was not in the Sermon on the Mount, nor on the Mount of Transfiguration, but on Mount Calvary. So too, the hour of the Church’s greatest evangelization may not be in the words of it’s Councils or doctrinal dissertations…
If the word has not converted, it will be blood that converts. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, from poem, "Stanislaw"
For the world too is paralyzed in fear, and it is your love—Christ’s love working through you—which will call to them: "Rise, pick up your mat, and go home" (Mk 2:11).
And you will look over your shoulder and whisper: "Follow me."
Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 5:4)
In the evening of life,
we will be judged on love alone. —St. John of the Cross