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Did Jesus engage in spiritual warfare? August 30, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Interior Life, Liturgy, North Deanery, priests, silliness.

A local priest at Mass today stated that Jesus did not engage in spiritual warfare – He simply commanded demons to depart and they were forced to instantaneously obey.  I guess the implication is that Jesus is so overwhelmingly powerful against the forces of darkness that it’s not even warfare – He simply dominates evil and crushes it.

I’m struggling with accepting this view.  While I understand that Jesus does command all things, good and evil, earthly and spiritual, with total dominance (as He was the Being through which all things were created), total dominance does not mean that warfare was not conducted.  Using a sordid earthly example, it was still warfare in 1940 when the Nazis rolled over France and the Low Countries with virtual impunity.  Similar examples abound from the sad history of human warfare.

At the same time, does Mark 9 imply that Jesus had to engage in some preparatory efforts in order to cast out an unclean spirit? 

And one of the multitude, answering, said: Master, I have brought my son to thee, having a dumb spirit. [17] Who, wheresoever he taketh him, dasheth him, and he foameth, and gnasheth with the teeth, and pineth away; and I spoke to thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not. [18] Who answering them, said: O incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. [19] And they brought him. And when he had seen him, immediately the spirit troubled him; and being thrown down upon the ground, he rolled about foaming. [20]And he asked his father: How long time is it since this hath happened unto him? But he said: From his infancy:

[21] And oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into waters to destroy him. But if thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us. [22] And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. [23] And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears said: I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief. [24] And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, he threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him; and enter not any more into him. [25]And crying out, and greatly tearing him, he went out of him, and he became as dead, so that many said: He is dead.

[26] But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up; and he arose. [27] And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? [28]And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

I think the proper reading is that Jesus was advising the disciples that they needed to pray and fast in order to have the power to cast out demons.  Perhaps a Biblical exegete could disabuse me of my notion, but Jesus’ dominance over evil seems assured.

But my problem still remains.  Perhaps it’s that there seems to be a profound lack of interest in spiritual warfare across whole vast swaths of the Church today.  Many, especially those imbued with that ‘spirit of Vatican II,’ regard spiritual warfare as indicative of “negative theology” or “negative ecclesiology,” too focused on hell and damnation and the dangers posed by evil spirits and our own fallen natures.  Certainly, interest in the public ministry of most priests in such topics is scarce.  I think this is very unfortunate, because hell and damnation are realities we could all face, and ignoring them does not make them go away – in fact, ignoring them tends to encourage the sorts of behaviors that will make one more likely to wind up in those hideous circumstances eternally,  human nature being what it is.  So, I feel it is a mistake, at least prudentially, to claim that Jesus did not engage in spiritual warfare.  Many Catholics today have a very simplistic view of Jesus and the Truth He revealed – saying “Jesus did not engage in spiritual warfare” could be tantamount in many minds to saying “spiritual warfare is something you need not be concerned about.”  We do need to be concerned about it – we should not obsess about it, but we should be aware that satan and his minions are real, and pose a real threat.  And simply because Jesus totally dominated on a spiritual field of battle does not mean that he was not engaged in warfare.  He was, and is.


1. Mary - August 30, 2011

It is very frustrating to hear such sermons as this. Priests that downplay spiritual battle and confession don’t seem to be trying to lead us to holier lives, challenging us further. Saints battled plenty – just watch or read the life of St Padre Pio…it’s not easy.

Jesus was fully human. I think to say that Jesus didn’t engage in spiritual warfare while here on earth would imply that we don’t need to engage in spiritual warfare. Jesus may have appeared to set the devil straight so quickly, but reading before the event, you’ll see that He went to the desert to pray and fast first. It was only after fasting for 40 days that He was able to battle with satan head to head seemingly easily.

I know the devil is real. I had such a battle with the devil that I could just have well ended up in prison because of what he wanted me to do, had I been any weaker in my faith.

Also, I think you can ask any recovering addict if they believe the devil is real, I think they’ll agree he is.

Satan would like that we not believe in him, because if we don’t, then we won’t fear him or watch out for him. I’d also like to pose a possible thought – if you don’t believe in satan, then is it possible you don’t believe in hell?

2. Mary - August 30, 2011

Ephesians 6:11-13

New International Version (NIV)

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

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