So there I was, on my second deployment to the Middle East, and this time I worked at the United States Air Forces Central forward headquarters. Everywhere I turned and traveled, I saw resources dedicated to living out Sun Tzu’s famous adage, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Why is it important to know the enemy? Because no amount of planning will 100 percent account for the variable that, “The enemy always gets a vote.” Purposefully ignoring the enemy is signing your own death warrant.
As Catholics in the modern world, very rarely will we hear about the tactics employed by our enemy, Satan, whose very name translated from Hebrew can mean “Enemy.” It seems that mentioning Satan, his tactics, and the consequences for falling for them is the “Old Church” employing fear tactics to control the masses. The perceived “fire and brimstone” preaching is relegated to the past in favor of a “beige Catholicism,” a term Bishop Robert Barron coined to describe a faith that’s culturally accommodating at the expense of fidelity. In short, modern Catholics are bombarded with a “hipster-esque” faith that cannot and will not take a stand for Christ.
As I reflect on the past week since Ash Wednesday, I can imagine millions of people across the world receiving ashes while hearing the words, “Man you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3: 19). These words are not merely meant to remind us that we were formed from dirt. These words should also point us to the verses preceding, “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you…and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.’” (Genesis 3: 14) Satan’s sole mission till the Second Coming is to devour every person possible and bring them down to the pits of hell.
That’s the Enemy—the chief of the fallen angels who’s been at this since Genesis. He’s cunning. He’s near tireless. But He’s not unbeatable—not by a longshot—not if you know yourself.
During this Lenten Season, here are two simple strategies you can employ to counter Satan’s “Seek and Destroy” spiritual mercenaries.
- Fire for Effect in your Examination of Conscience: Yes, examine your conscience, and don’t just do it right before the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And don’t just do it with “check the box” mentality. Satan’s main weapon is temptation. While he is powerful and smart, he is infinitely far from all-powerful and all-knowing. He tempts you to get to know you, to know if he has you and how he can get you. You need to know yourself even better. Here’s the key. Your true self is found in Christ and His Church. Your conscience must be aligned with the moral conscience of The Church. Examine your conscience with how the Church says we should live a moral life. If there’s one thing that Satan wants more than anything, it is a conscience that echoes his own, which chooses the self over God. This gives credence to the other words you may have heard when receiving ashes, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1: 15) Repentance is the effect you’re after.
- Get out of your Comfort Zone: Once you’ve examined your conscience, you have to turn these thoughts into words and actions. Very rarely will you exit an examination of conscience squeaky clean. That’s okay. When you’re fighting a war, injuries are just part and parcel—an occupational hazard if you will. The important part is that you know where your spiritual injuries are located and you go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is where repentance takes its true form. Many people don’t go because it’s uncomfortable. Injury is never comfortable. Go! The same Jesus who is present in the Eucharist is present in Reconciliation. Go! Don’t worry if your contrition isn’t perfect. Don’t worry if you think you might sin the same sin again. Don’t worry if you think that your sin is too small or too big. Go! The Catholic faith isn’t meant to be “comfortable” in the worldly sense. Our true solace won’t be found in this life, so get out of your comfort zone.
Just because the Enemy always gets a vote, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight back. The great thing about the Catholic Faith and waging spiritual warfare is that we’re not alone. We have God, His angels, and all the Saints fighting side by side us. They’ve prepared a way for us and are “covering our six.” We have each other. But there’s no victory unless you fight. Lent isn’t a season of “Woe is me, I can’t have meat,” nambipambiness. Lent is a solemn reminder to all Christian soldiers that we must renew our resolve and pick up our weapon, The Cross and follow our Lord into the Promised Land. To do that, you need to know your enemy and yourself.