Army of Heaven
Corinthians 12: 1-10
I must boast; not that it is profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. About this person I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. Although if I should ever wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
St Paul is witnessing about a wound that seems to elude healing in this Christian life, an indefinitely deferred release from torments of the sleepless deceiver, Satan. To receive any revelation from the Lord, like the gift of devout life itself, is a great privilege. But privilege can easily turn to pride, as when someone asserts "I am something", boasting in divine favors. Some may not be set completely free, so that dependence on God and continuing humility are preserved. We remember: "Take up your cross and follow Me".
The simplest deliverance is through the answered personal prayer, offered with faith and humility. An addict knows he will not deliver himself. We cry immediately at the approach of the awful angel of lust, "I boast in my weakness dear God! Come and be my strength Jesus, for a mere creature, even lower - an addict, can do nothing! In you O Savior is all my faith!"
If we have chosen to taste Satan's apple of sin instead, deliverance is sought through the sacrament of reconciliation. The priest in the booth next to us serves as mediator in confession. Confession is a sacramental grace available at minimum once a week at any parish. It is a cleansing in Christ's blood, a restoration to God's protection, so that as grace resumes its flow in us, we can be clean and do good deeds. This rectitude rewards us with greater freedom from our weakness by being able to boast in our weakness at the drop of any temptation.
For unchanging patterns of habitual sin, deliverance ministry can be sought which offers an intense encounter through prayer, where fellow brothers and sisters of the faith, fast and pray as intercessors, for one often afflicted for years. The person suffering oppression meets the prayer team in a story telling session of hurts, wrongs and disorders of the past, and ritually forgives, in the witness of peers, those who did wrong, including oneself.
The unseen dimension of long-term hidden demon entanglement in us is also addressed here. In the name of Jesus, the penitent is invited to take authority over the unclean spirits that have enjoyed residence in one's 'house' too long.
Deliverance prayer typically requires a period of advance preparation; the penitent fearlessly combs the fragments of the biographical past and how negative passages caused harm. The intercessors fast and pray for the wounded addict to be opened and guided,just as Jesus taught when simpler apostolic encounters failed to cast out demons.
For most addicts deliverance in the name of Jesus releases us from specific binding wounds of the past as well as the lies we learned to tell ourselves as a result, and closes open doors in us that demons have accessed.
Receiving the revelation of power in prayer, the sword put in our hands by the Spirit to conquer temptation; the restorative graces of the sacrament of reconciliation which fill us with hatred for our sin; and the casting-out of demonic influence by the name of Jesus in deliverance prayer notwithstanding, yet we will find Satan remains not yet dispelled forever in this life.
Humans are inheritors of the effects of the original sin, which is the "wound of the human condition". For each soul, the wound is a tempting source of despair. Biography exhausted, human patience spent, exasperation might bring one within a hair's breadth of insanity, the deepest desire of all seemingly receding from grasp.
Each unwanted, but divinely tolerated visitation of the dark angel is an inspection, to unveil the state of the heart, whether it is still holding onto a secret love affair with sin. And this sin, whatever the proudly deformed preference, is shown as a standing obstruction between his child and the infinite love and attentions of Goodness himself, Our Father. For any addict, the right evasion tactic seems to be then "Don't EVER get started!" A humble addict cry for protection and safety on that particular day is vital, because "I know that some small agonizing thing in me still loves my sin and I am helpless to remove the attachment in my heart where it eclipses the affections of the Father, as an idol."
The only remaining untried measure is nothing.What?! "Do nothing" is translated as: be still, stop the fear of relapse, stop the attachment to being sterilized from all sin, stop insisting deliverance from all future evil. Pride is the root of this petulance. Contemplation is the silent prayer that asks for the gift of a mind in holy silence. The spoken "Jesus", the prayer Word, center of every breath and heartbeat, delivers us to safety. The prayer brings us back from the brink of 'bad thief mind'.
Martin Laird in "Into the Silent Land" speaks these depthless words"...healing is revealed when we discover that our wound and the wound of God are one." The remedy is silence, which he says "lays bare this wound that seems to be with us for life and brings us face to face, eye to eye, with what feels like nothing at all."
But the revelatory stillness, he says, "does not feel as much like a breakthrough as it feels like a breakdown". Despite the arrival of this important shift, "...it may feel as though our life is coming unpinned, that we're losing it, that we are going around the bend." "There is a deeply ingrained tendency...to recoil from our own brokenness, to judge it as others have judged it, to loathe it as we have been taught over a lifetime to loathe it. In doing this we avoid what God in Christ draws close to and embraces.
Thomas Merton: "The Christ we find in ourselves is not identified with what we vainly seek to admire and idolize in ourselves, for he has taken upon himself our wretchedness and our misery, our poverty and our sins...We will never find peace if we listen to the voice of our own fatuous self-deception that tells us the conflict has ceased to exist. We will find peace when we can listen to the death-dance in our blood, not only with equanimity but with exultation because we hear within it the echoes of the victory of the Risen Savior."
"God meets the human condition where it stands most in need, in its poverty and brokenness, and as we make our pilgrim way along the path of contemplation, we will certainly meet "what we resent most in ourselves".
"St. Paul knew what it meant to be wounded. What Paul wanted was relief from his struggle. What he received instead was God."
"One of the most sobering realizations along the contemplative path is that no matter how many breakthroughs we might make, we continue to struggle to a greater or lesser degree with the same old baggage, temptations and failings that we have always struggled with. What does change however is how we meet temptation."[TBC]
Lord Jesus let your name forever be on our lips, to seal us from succumbing to temptation, as we renounce all pride, and uproot all resentment of our weakness and deformity. Let us instead rejoice and boast in our weakness, Your grace forever enough to protect and deliver us. Amen.