Army of Heaven
The draft never closes. The Army of Heaven perpetually offers enlistment… It seeks those who want to pack and wield a sword of prayer, all the time…
This Army never records the number of battles nor tallies any victories. It is not about ‘the enemy must be our trophy’. Evil itself is no trophy because, as St Augustine observed, evil has no essence. It’s only about the unremitting search for purity…
The Israelites were captives in the land of Egypt. Weak humans forced to serve tyrant humans, they were slaves soon liberated, through a series of providential aids, a deliverance vouchsafed by supernatural power.
The Jews proceeded then into a desert, into a night of encounter, with self and with God. Forty years they searched. Yet, there were no adversaries. The only adversaries were themselves. Have we not also been our own adversaries, enslaved to creature idols, fools for disordered passions, harlots for vice? Eventually they received the possibility of overcoming themselves, with constant reminders and help from above.
Forty years of purification in a desert. What is the translation of this symbol. A lifetime of suffering? A recovery of radical thoroughness? No, only an open-ended commitment to conversion, the way to Heaven.
All things pass, until the Land of Promise itself finally draws into view. The Jews find themselves somehow at the doorstep, the threshold of all liberty. But scouts are to be sent in first. Hm.. They do not find free land or an unoccupied paradise. Hmm. Other creatures are there waiting…for eviction. Hmmm. Can you hear the groaning: “Really?!... You’ve got to be kidding?!” “after all that…now this?”
Human beings can be convicted soldiers, committed soldiers, conscious soldiers, reluctant soldiers, accidental soldiers or, oblivious soldiers.
Sinners, addicts, compulsives ascend this ladder in reverse order. The army of Heaven trains us for prayer, and only the swordsman with the grace of unflagging conviction, of faith, hope, and unceasing prayer, will taste freedom.
This is not a sermon on self-reliance or white knuckle feats. Our job is to pray with faith, with relentless desire, mostly when we least seem to be able, to Christ Who is the power answering our prayer. Christ splits the Red Sea. Christ vanquishes the enemy, puts him to flight, drives him out, renders his plan naught…
Flesh cries to Light. And Light makes flesh into light: purity.
So who then are the waiting tribal strangers in Canaan? Who are the Amorites!? Pagan hearts of disordered self-love, demons on the outside now, but who want ‘back in’, and bad. Let them back in we must not, lest it become far worse for us. God structures this seemingly cruel reward for stupidity to produce learning. Are we learning? Or will involuntary vice and stupidity die hard? “Creature, struggle against thyself.” Keep praying, keep serving, keep hoping!
We decide. We choose. It hinges on the last of all things, heart. What does the heart really want? Does an inert pacifist skip again the hard choice… OR… is there a fearless, hungry, determined stand in prayer that simply will not be silenced or stopped, trusting in an almighty savior’s superabundant strength and unending mercy?
God in Heaven make us convicted soldiers, hungry to work out our salvation, living endlessly in prayer. Amen.