ALMOST six years ago, I wrote about a spirit of fear that would begin to assail the world; a fear that would begin to grip nations, families, and marriages, children and adults alike. One of my readers, a very smart and devout woman, has a daughter who for many years has been given a window into the spiritual realm. In 2013, she had a prophetic dream:
My older daughter sees many beings good and bad [angels] in battle. She has spoken many times about how its an all out war and its only getting bigger and the different kinds of beings. Our Lady appeared to her in a dream last year as our Lady of Guadalupe. She told her that the demon coming is larger and fiercer than all the others. That she is not to engage this demon nor listen to it. It was going to try to take over the world. This is a demon of fear. It was a fear that my daughter said was going to envelop everyone and everything. Staying close to the Sacraments and Jesus and Mary are of the utmost importance.
How true that insight was! Just ponder for a moment the fear that has engulfed so many since then in the Church, with the resignation of Benedict XVI and subsequent election and style of Pope Francis. Consider the fear generated by mass shootings and the brutal terrorism spreading from the Middle East into the West. Think of women’s fear to walk alone on the street or how most people now lock their doors at night. Consider the fear presently gripping hundreds of millions of youth as Greta Thunberg terrorizes them with false doomsday predictions. Observe the fear gripping nations as a pandemic threatens to change life as we know it. Think of the fear growing through polarizing politics, hostile exchanges between friends and family on social media, the mind-numbing speed of technological change and the capabilities of weapons of mass destruction. Then there is the fear of financial ruin through growing debt, both personal and national, and the exponential increase in serious diseases and so forth. Fear! It is “enveloping everyone and everything”!
So, before I give you the antidote to this fear at the end of this article, it is time to address the arrival of another demon in our times that is using this soil of fear to put nations, families and marriages on the edge of destruction: it is a powerful demon of judgments.
THE POWER OF THE WORD
Words, whether thought or spoken, contain power. Consider that before the creation of the universe, God thought of us and then spoke that thought:
Let there be light… (Genesis 3:1)
God’s “fiat”, a simple “let it be done”, was all that was needed to bring the entire cosmos into existence. That Word eventually became flesh in the person of Jesus, who won for us our salvation and began the restoration of creation to the Father.
We are made in God’s image. As such, He imparted to our intellect, memory and will the capacity to share in His divine power. Hence, our words have the ability to bring life or death.
Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire… It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. (cf. James 3:5-9)
No one sins without first embracing a word that comes as a temptation: “Take, look, lust, eat…” etc. If we acquiesce, then we give flesh to that word and sin (death) is conceived. Likewise, when we obey the voice of God in our conscience: “Give, love, serve, surrender…” etc. then that word takes on flesh in our actions, and love (life) is begotten around us.
This is why St. Paul tells us that the first battlefront is the thought-life.
For, although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh, for the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ… (2 Cor 10:3-5)
Just as Satan was able to influence the thoughts of Eve, so too, the “father of lies” continues to deceive her progeny through convincing arguments and pretensions.
THE POWER OF JUDGMENTS
It should be apparent how ill-informed thoughts about others—what are called judgments (assumptions about another person’s motives and intentions)—can quickly become destructive. And they can wreak special havoc when we put them into words, what the Catechism calls: “slander… false witness… perjury…. rash judgment… detraction… and calumny.” Our words have power.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak.(Matthew 12:36)
We could even say that the fall of Adam and Eve was rooted in a judgment against God: that He was withholding something from them. This judgment of God’s heart and true intentions has brought a literal world of misery upon dozens of generations since. For Satan knows that lies contain poison—the power of death to destroy relationships and, if possible, the soul. Perhaps this is why Jesus was never more blunt with an admonition than He was with this:
Stop judging… (Luke 6:37)
Wars have been fought over false judgments that were cast upon entire nations and peoples. How much more, then, have judgments been the catalyst to destroy families, friendships, and marriages.
ANATOMY OF JUDGMENTS
Judgments most often begin by external analysis of another’s appearance, words, or actions (or even lack thereof) and then applying a motive to them that is not immediately apparent.
Years ago during one of my concerts, I noticed a man sitting near the front who had a scowl on his face the entire evening. He kept catching my eye and eventually I said to myself, “What’s his problem? Why did he even bother coming?” Usually when my concerts end, a number of people come up to talk or ask me to sign a book or CD. But this time, no one approached me—except this man. He smiled and said, “Thank you so much. I was deeply moved by your words and music tonight.” Boy, did I get that wrong.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24)
A judgment begins as a thought. I have a choice at that point whether to take it captive and make it obedient to Christ… or to let it take captive of me. If the latter, it is akin to allowing the enemy to begin constructing a fortress in my heart in which I keep another person imprisoned (and ultimately, myself). Make no mistake: such a fortress can quickly become a stronghold in which the enemy wastes no time in sending his emissaries of suspicion, mistrust, bitterness, competition, and fear. I have seen how beautiful Christian families have begun to fracture as they allow these judgments to reach the height of a skyscraper; how Christian marriages are collapsing under the weight of falsehoods; and how entire nations are ripping apart as they makes caricatures of one another rather than listen to the other.
On the other hand, we have powerful weapons to demolish these fortresses. When they are still small, still in seed form, it is easy to defuse these judgments by making them obedient to Christ, that is, making our thoughts conform to the mind of Christ:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful… Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you… Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye… Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all… Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Rom 12:17, 21)
However, when these fortresses take on a life of their own, embed themselves deeply into our family tree, and do real damage to our relationships, they require sacrifice: prayer, the rosary, fasting, repentance, continual acts of forgiveness, patience, fortitude, the Sacrament of Confession, etc. They may also necessitate spiritual warfare to bind and rebuke evil spirits operating against us (see Questions on Deliverance). Another “enormously powerful” weapon that is often underestimated is the power of humility. When we bring pain, hurt, and misunderstanding into the light, owning our mistakes and asking for forgiveness (even if the other party has not), often these strongholds just crumble to the ground. The devil works in the darkness, so when we bring things into the light of truth, he flees.
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
STAY SOBER AND ALERT
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. (1 Pet 5:8-9)
Many of you have written telling me how your families are inexplicably coming apart and how divisions between your friends and relatives are widening. These are only compounding exponentially through social media, which is the perfect environment for judgments to foment since we cannot hear or see the person speaking. This leaves room for a world of misinterpretation to another’s comments. In other words, if you want to begin healing in your relationships that are being pounded by false judgments, stop using social media, texting, and email to communicate your feelings whenever possible.
We have to get back to communicating in our families. I ask myself if you, in your family, know how to communicate or are you like those kids at meal tables where everyone is chatting on their mobile phone… where there is silence like at a Mass but they don’t communicate? —POPE FRANCIS, December 29th, 2019; bbc.com
Of course, just quoting Pope Francis will cause some to withdraw into a fortress of judgment. But let’s just pause for a moment here because the Pope is the head of the Catholic family and, it too, is seemingly breaking apart. Case in point: how many people judged that the Holy Father was going to change the rules on celibacy and then took to social media to proclaim that Francis is “going to destroy the Church”? And yet, today, he has upheld the Church’s long-standing discipline on priestly celibacy. Or how many have condemned Francis for intentionally selling out the Chinese Church without having all the facts? Yesterday, Chinese Cardinal Zen threw a new light on the Pope’s knowledge of what’s going on there:
The situation is very bad. And the source is not the pope. The pope doesn’t know much about China… The Holy Father Francis shows special affection to me. I’m fighting [Cardinal Pietro] Parolin. Because the bad things come from him. —Cardinal Joseph Zen, Feb. 11th, 2020, Catholic News Agency
So, while the Pope is not beyond criticism and has, in fact, made mistakes, and even publicly apologized for some of them, there is no question that a lot of the destruction, fear, and division I read is the result of certain individuals and media outlets creating it out of thin air. They have produced a false narrative that the Pope is intentionally destroying the Church; everything he says or does, then, is filtered through a hermeneutic of suspicion while a vast amount of orthodox teaching is virtually ignored. They have built a fortress of judgment that, ironically, is starting to become a parallel church of sorts, pushing her closer to schism. It’s fair to say that both the Pope and the flock have a part to play in what amounts to dysfunctional communication in the family of God.
I’m writing this in a small town café; the news is playing in the background. I can hear one judgment after another as the mainstream media no longer tries to hide their bias; as identity politics and virtue-signaling have now replaced justice and moral absolutes. People are being wholesale judged for how they vote, the color of their skin (white is the new black), and whether they accept the dogmas of “global warming”, “reproductive rights” and “tolerance.” Politics has become an absolute minefield for relationships today as it is becoming more and more driven by ideology rather than mere praxis. And Satan stands on both the left and the right—either subltly dragging souls into the far-left agenda of Communism or, on the other hand, into the far-right empty promises of unfettered capitalism, thus setting father against son, mother against daughter, and brother against brother.
Yes, the winds of the Global Revolution I’ve been warning you about for years are being fanned into a hurricane, a Great Storm, by the wings of those fallen angels of fear and judgment. These are real demons intent on doing real destruction. The antidote to their lies involves deliberately taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ. It’s actually very simple: become like a little child and reveal your faith in Christ by absolute obedience to His word:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
And that means rejecting…
…every attitude and word likely to cause [another] unjust injury… [of] even tacitly, [assuming] as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor… [of not disclosing] another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them… [avoiding] remarks contrary to the truth, [that] harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them… [and interpreting] insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2477-2478
In this way—the way of love—we can exorcise the demons of both fear and judgment… at least, from our own hearts.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
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- Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2475-2479