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Vol. V, June 1999

 

"There Are More With Us" (2 Kings 6,16)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Elisha "inherited a double share" of the spirit of Elijah, whom he called "my father" and followed in the prophetic ministry (cf. 2 Kings 2,9-14). His mission also led him into spiritual combat. Now, we as the "prophets" of the New Testament, receive new light: the important conviction about the victory of those who are with the Lord, and faith in the immense number of Angels sent to our help.

1. It happened that "the king of Syria was warring against Israel. ... But the man of God, (Elisha), sent word to the king of Israel" telling him about the ambushes and position of his enemy, "so that he saved himself there more than once or twice" (2 Kings 6,8-10).

One of the Syrian King’s servants explained: "‘Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber’ ... So he sent horses and chariots and a great army" to Dothan, where Elisha was. "When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was round about the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed" to help his servant, "and said, ‘O Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes that he may see’, ... and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (vv. 11-17).

We do not wonder anymore about spiritual struggles; temptations are not just a consequence of human weakness or a sign of our fallen nature; in the plan and grace of God they are powerful means for spiritual maturation and progress and, therefore, part of human life. It is possible, said St. Peter, that "you do right and suffer for it", and if "you take it patiently, you have God’s approval" (1 Pet 2,20).

What was the prophet’s reaction? Elisha did not show any irritation about the enemy being so near, he reacted as if it were not meant for him; he remained tranquil and looked at God. The king of Israel, counseled by the prophet, had acted with childlike and firm faith in accordance with the prophet’s words (cf. vv. 21-23). The prophet’s servant, however, was frightened by the number and powerful presence of the enemy; he looked anxiously to the prophet seeking his help. Elisha first wanted to see his faith, but then he prayed and asked for the grace that he might "see" in order to believe and to trust, and so loose his fear and remain in peace.

2. We have to ask ourselves, what are the objective reasons for Elisha’s firm belief in order that we can also find the same security and can strengthen the faith of our brothers.

a) Granted that there are "horses and chariots and a great army" on the side of the enemy; nevertheless, St. Thomas Aquinas, following this text, notes, "more Angels remained (faithful to God) than sinned" (ST I,63,9). The man in the country of the Gerasenes was possessed by not just one unclean spirit. When Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" the answer came back: "My name is Legion; for we are many". So many were they, that when expelled, they entered into the herd of two thousand swine (Mk 5,9-13). In the book of Revelation we read: "And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon ... His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth" (Rev 12,3-4).

Evidently, speaking of "a third" part which had fallen allows us to conclude that there are "two thirds" on the side of those faithful to God. Did Jesus not say to the apostles: He could appeal in His Passion to the Father, and He would send him "at once more than twelve legions of Angels" (Mt 26,53)?! The prophet Daniel saw "a thousand thousands ..., and ten thousand times ten thousand (who) stood before Him" (Dan 7,10). Similarly, other texts speak of large hosts of Angels (cf. e.g. Heb 12,22; Rev 5,11). St. Paul asked: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?" (Heb 1,14). And we may add: Just as Christ would have died for a single soul in order to save it, so would "all" the Angels have been sent to that single soul so that it might obtain its salvation!

Thus, we do not have to sit down and make extensive calculations, to take counsel whether we are able to meet the enemy (cf. Lk 14,31). Out of his steadfast union with the Lord, Elisha answered his servant, "Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them", so can we, really and always, trust in what the prophet believed: We are with the majority!

b) However, we have to add here that there is still another, a qualitative "majority"; in the final analysis, it is not the number before God which counts — how often in the course of history has God insisted in this dimension! Was it not only one righteous man, Noah, together with his family, saved while all the rest of mankind perished? Was it not the same with Lot as opposed to Sodom? Did not one "destroyer" go in confrontation with all the Egyptians? Did not Gideon with just three hundred men win against enemies "like locusts for multitude" (Judges 7,8.12)? Elijah alone slayed the 450 prophets of Baal! It is not numbers, but strength that counts, and this is infinitely greater in Almighty God and with each one who is united with Him.

Jesus said to the Apostles: "You will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave Me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me!" (Jn 16,32). And St. Paul adds to this: "If God is for us, who is against us?" Every one is invited, to "lift up his eyes" and to see with Joshua "a man ... with his drawn sword in his hand ... who said: 'As commander of the army of the Lord I have now come'" (Josh 5,14); "the Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still!" (Ex 14,14). Our Lady is the most explicit proof of this: Because she lived only for the Lord, she was untouchable for the enemy (cf. Gen 3,15).

We can also convince ourselves of our advantage by looking directly to the camp of the enemy. They are fighting out of pride against eachother and out of envy against man (cf. ST I,63,2; Mt 12,22-30). Their hate and anger free energy, but they are not willing to put them in order or to unite them. They do not want to serve, they do not know obedience which would give them strength for battle. Their attitudes lead only to division and not to union, to weakness instead of power, to destruction instead of the construction of any positive goal.

Therefore, we may add to the superiority which we already enjoy in terms of numbers the further qualification of strength: We are allied with the better soldiers! We fight in the superior ranks of the holy Angels under God like St. Michael, who said "contending with the devil ... ‘The Lord rebuke you’" (Jude 9).

3. The superiority of the holy Angels in number and quality over the fallen spirits is only the objective reason for the calm attitude of Elisha; his decisive secret, however, lies in his personal familiarity with the hosts of the Lord. He counts on the spiritual beings as others do with their companions: he seems to see the Angels of the Lord as others see human beings. Not for a single moment did he doubt their presence and sufficient strength for this situation. His deep roots in the spiritual world enabled him to help men to be firm in their belief in God and in the conviction about the victory of those who are with God, for they are with the majority!

For such firmness we may distinguish four degrees: The Angels themselves live in the beatific and clear vision of God; the prophet stands firm in the presence of God through faith; the king gains firmness by finding support in the faith of the prophet; the servant of the prophet wavered in spite of all that and needed the favor of a miraculous vision gained through the intercession of the prophet. We can see in this a sort of "hierarchical community" as it were:

The holy Angels live in the beatific vision (cf. ST I,62,1; 1 Jn 3,2). "Round the throne" in heaven "are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind" (Rev 4,6; cf. Ezek 1,18); and of the lowest group of Angels said Jesus, that they "always behold the face of My Father Who is in heaven" (Mt 18,10).

Through them, the prophets receive their light so that Isaiah could exclaim, "Woe is me! For I am lost ... for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Is 6,5); or as St. John Evangelist stated, God "made it [the whole knowledge of the Apocalpyse] known by sending His Angel to His servant John, who bore witness ... to all he saw" (Rev 1,1-2).

Firm through their familiarity with the holy Angels and with their help, the prophets are able to instruct men about the will of God and to present them the mysteries of faith; thus they strengthen the faith of all and make them resistant in temptations.

4. We priests in union with the holy Angels should be characterized by a firmness in faith like that of Elisha, or like that which St. Michael manifested during the trial of the Angels, for he did not care about the enemy but looked at God and confessed before all: "Who is like God!" That impels us to preach like St. Paul saying, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ... I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, ... nor Powers ... will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8,38f.)!

Let us start sharpening our spiritual eyes through acts of faith, in order to believe what others see in a prophetic ministry in our behalf (cf. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, in CCC 1589; and Fr. John B. Reuss, SJ, Brazil, who saw the Angels present throughout the entire liturgy of the holy Mass).

Let us care and heed to the fact that we are surrounded by the heavenly army through our daily prayers to them - the fellow servants of the prophets and ours.

We should talk to the people about the spiritual battle (cf. e.g. CCC 405, 407ff, ... 2015f, 2726, 2846-49), and help them to face the total reality of death and judgement, heaven and hell (Heb 9,27). We especially help them by enlarging the vision of their faith to ‘behold’ with Elisha that they who are for us are more than those against us. In this we can all take heart in a hope that transcends all earthly frontiers.

Let us give testimony of God’s power and love: God cares for those who care for Him!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC