The Spiritual Battle

Scriptural Foundations Fall 08 - Personal Approbation Paper by Carlo Juanola

 

There is a battle within us that leads us to unity or separation with God in the spiritual life.  In class we discussed the scriptural theme of ‘spiritual battle’ in the context of internal struggle over our carnal appetites and selfish desires.  Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).  The ultimate purpose in life, which is unity with God, entails that we combat our passions and vices, particularly in overcoming the vices of impurity and sloth.   According to Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli in his book The Spiritual Combat, there are four weapons that aid us in this spiritual battle.   These spiritual weapons are humility, trust in God, formation of conscience, and a life of prayer (Scupoli 7).  

Humility is a weapon against the destructiveness of our own pride.   Our current culture espouses a mentality of self-sufficiency, rugged individualism, and autonomy.  However, this mindset is at odds with the notion of a God who calls us to the ‘obedience of faith’.  The virtue of humility allows us to acknowledge that we are creatures who are limited in all our capacities no matter how far we have come in knowledge and culture.  When we reflect on the fragility of our own lives, then we realize that we have a soul that is in the hands of a God beyond this earthly world.  By doing this, we grow in humility and trust in God. 

Trust in God helps us to realize that there is hope in our lives when we fall into despair.  If we balance what we fear from ourselves with what we hope from God, then we can confront and endure extraordinary circumstances (Scupoli 13). Some people fall into depression, turn to substance abuse, or commit suicide because they lose hope.  Hope is the solution to despair by trusting God’s promises and relying on Him for strength (CCC 1817).  Trust in God has to be developed, which can be done by contemplating on His infinite power and goodness as revealed in scripture (Scupoli 13).  Humility and trust in God eventually pave the way for us to form our consciences properly. 

Spiritual combat involves proper formation of our consciences, which is continuous conversion to what is true and good (VS 63b)[2].  Our intellect naturally seeks the truth, and our will naturally seeks the good (Burnham, et al. 4).  However, we can see in our increasingly secularized culture how the intellect and will can mislead each other.  For example, people often don’t seek the truth sincerely because it contradicts their lifestyle or wounds their pride.  If the will is attracted to evil, the intellect can distort the truth to make the evil seem more acceptable.   If the intellect mistakes something evil for something good, the will naturally chooses the apparent good rather than the true good (Burnham, et al. 4).  Our recent state and presidential elections are a testament to this conflict over the issues of homosexual marriage and abortion.  In the end, the formation of one’s conscience cannot be possible without a life of constant prayer. 

Prayer life is the last element of Fr. Scupoli’s strategy for spiritual combat for it is the channel of all divine grace.   There is a saying that we have at our retreats, “How can anyone know or love anyone if they don’t speak to them?”   Quite simply, prayer is communication with God.  It is not possible to receive what we ask unless we come to God through prayer in our hearts.  It is through prayer that we are then able to see and hear God’s will in our conscience. 

To this day, I have struggled in battling my selfish desires because, by myself, I am weak.   Saint Paul reminds us when he said, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Philippians 2:12-13).  In my service to the Church, I am called to spiritual battle with myself and with the world for the sake of God and others.  I acknowledge that struggle is part of my earthly existence, and it is a test of my spiritual pilgrimage.  It is no wonder that the Church on earth is called the Church Militant because we struggle or ‘make effort’ to battle against sin.  

 

References


Burnham, Jim and Father Frank Chacon. “Beginning Apologetics #4: How to Answer Atheists and New Agers”.  Farmington, NM: San Juan Catholic Seminars, 2004.  Pg 4. 

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Article 2, “Hope,” par. 1817.

Papal Encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, 63b, John Paul II, Rome August 6, 1993, 63b.

Scupoli, Fr. Lorenzo.  “The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise On Peace of Soul ”.  Rockford, Ill: Tan

Books and Publishers, Inc., 1990. Pp. 8, 11

The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Second Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2006. Mtt 26:41; Phil 2:12-13.