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Vol. V, Sept. '99

 

Enemies in the Hands of GOD (cf 2 Chron 32)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The second book of Chronicles gives the history of the kings of Israel after David. Solomon built and consecrated the temple in Jerusalem (ch. 1-9), then the kingdom was divided and many kings were unfaithful to the Lord. However, Scripture does recall the outstanding example of Hezekiah's virtues: "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done" (2 Chron 29,2); he called the people of Israel to "return to the Lord" (2 Chron 30,6); when "his heart was proud, he humbled himself for this pride of his heart" (2 Chron 32,25 f.). In the first account, we considered man's humility as manifested in prayer and the openness of seeking the help of others, together with God's fidelity to His Word once given (cf. 2 Kings 19; Circular V,7). It would be worthwhile to reflect here on the enemies in human life, their role and powerlessness.

1. Obstacles are a normal occurrence as we journey our way on earth. Objectively, they can be very slight, or sometimes quite difficult, and subjectively, our ego does not take lightly the intrusion on its sovereignty: for example, someone wants to pass through the door first; the traffic-light turns red before us; an appointment was canceled; a stroke changes our entire life, etc. In religion we call them "crosses", a necessary means on our way to the eternal goal. So when "Hezekiah prospered in all his works, God left him to himself, in order to try him and to discover all that was in his heart" (2 Chron 32,30-31).

a) Man has to be tested in order to achieve union with God. "The Lord disciplines man whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives" (Hebr 12,6). He who wishes to climb up the ladder to Heaven has to carry his cross daily (cf Lc 9,23; 6,40). That is why Hezekiah is put to the test " ... to know all that was in his heart" (2 Chron 32,31). It is when man is in difficulties that what is within himself will be revealed, for it is then that he must struggle most! This is the reason why St. Thomas commented that, "the absence of trials is almost a sign of eternal rejection" (In Hebr 12,6; Marietti 674), and St. Gregory the Great is still clearer: "If you do not have temptations, it is because the demons are your friends, your guide and your shepherds", for according to the Cure d'Ars, "the devil lets us live in a false peace" (for these and the following quotes see G. Huber, Vattene via Satana! Il diavolo oggi, Vaticano, 1993, 56-62). St. Vincent de Paul stated, "therefore to be put to the test by temptations is a grace and a sign that GOD loves us", this makes our merits and virtues much greater". "Temptations allow us to go quicker on our way to God", according to the Cure d'Ars, and are "the surest sign that we are on our way to Heaven".

b) To arouse his decisions, man is inspired to do good, and this is a mission which is fittingly given to the faithful Angels. But man can also be provoked to do evil, that which is fitting to the fallen angels, and for that purpose God left some of them on earth, on places where we live (cf Eph 2,2; 1 Pet 5,8; Lk 8,26 ff; St. Thomas, Summa theol. 1,64,4 and 114). Although temptations can come from the world and our own flesh, Card. Journet pointed out the most ironic thing when he said, "No one, after God, will have collaborated more to the sanctity of Job than the devil, and no one will have wanted it less!" Conscious of God's omnipotence and of the answer given to St. Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you" (1 Cor 12,8) St. Vincent de Paul taught, "we have not to ask God to be freed from temptations, but to make good use of them and to avoid that we be defeated. St. James said: "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know, the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (1,2)". "God knows like the best doctor and wants like the best father the most fitting medicine to heal the sicknesses of our souls, hidden or open, and provides the best way for the cure, even if they are not according to our taste" (St. Ignatius). Therefore, "Pray, hope and don't worry!" (Bl. Padre Pio).

2. We see in the marvellous event of our text that man remains totally sheltered and safe in the omnipotent hand of God: "Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet ... prayed and the Lord sent an Angel who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king returned shamefaced to his own country" (2 Chron 32,20-21), and "that night the Angel of the Lord slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand" (2 Kings, 19,34f.). Are the enemies of God really so helpless as they appear here?

a) By nature, the angels who turned against God, the devils, are still pure spirits! "The natural gifts remain in them fully and in the most splendid way - integra et splendidissima" (St. Thomas, De Malo, 16,6). The sin of the Angel took nothing away from their natural perfection, for it is the supernatural that has been stripped from them. They still have that encompassing knowledge, that power to affect and penetrate our senses, our memory, our imagination. "Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning' who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father" (CCC 394).

b) The Church, however is quick to add that "the power of satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is a pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and society, the action is permitted by Divine Providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that Providence should permit diabolical activity, but we know that ‘in everything God works for the good of those who love Him’ (Rom 8,28)" (CCC 395). The Book of Revelation points it out very clearly: "God has put into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (Rev 17,17). How can it be different, when we believe in Jesus' word, that "even the hairs of your head are all numbered" (Mt 10,30) and none will be lost without God's permission (cf. Acts 27,34), for Jesus "commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him" (Mk 1,27)! The activity of our enemies here on earth is part of God's plan with man; it is a further humiliation to their sinful pride, that they should be reduced to little more than office boys.

3. We see illustrated in our text (cf 2 Chron 32, 18-19) this theoretical teaching. On the one side we see the enemies threatening King Hezekiah and his people with a blasphemous "sermon" in order to frighten them. On the other side, we see the devoted king and his people, trusting in the Lord and crying out in prayer, with the result of the enemies being annihilated by the Holy Angels.

a) We find similar situations more often. When Elijah met the 450 prophets of Baal, He invited them to call upon their god in any way possible. Thinking of Baal as a demon, we really must wonder how it came that he did not manifest himself in any way, that is "no voice, no one answered, no one heeded" (cf. l Kings 18,20-29).

And when we read in Job, that "satan came to present himself before the Lord" (Job 2,1): Does it not clearly show that the devil cannot use his power without the consent and permission of God, his Creator and Lord?!

b) Or, let us look at human enemies, mindless of how far they were provoked by the devils. At the Pharaoh and the Egyptians: how often did they threaten with many forms of punishment. However, it was the Lord who "had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked" (Ex 12,36).

When Pilate said to Jesus: "Do you not know that I have the power to release you, and the power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him:

"You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above!" (Jn 19,10-11). How helpless and "much perplexed" appeared the High priests, the Sadducees and Pharisees with the council, when the Angel freed the apostles from prison and they were found in the temple preaching openly (cf. Acts 5,17 ff).

Rabindranath R Maharaj a converted Hindu, narrated in his biography "The Death of a Guru", how a big snake approached him through a bush: Was it Shiva, the deity, or danger of Life? He recalled his Grandmother's counsel: "Whenever you are in need, call a certain Jesus!" So he did and the snake withdrew itself and disappeared. How often the plans of the evil one were frustrated at the last minute, especially when we unite ourselves through prayer with the omnipotence of God and by that, allow the Angels to act according to God's Holy Will.

4. Dear Brothers, are we put to shame by Hezekiah's humility and prayer? Do we believe in the enemy and yet also in God and the power of His Angels? Do we trust in God's care for us?

Can we spare ourselves and hold back, instead of deepening our union with God and the Holy Angels, and be disposed and ready for the battle in favor of God and souls?

Where you meet with confreres, as on a monthly basis, read the new ritual on exorcism, talk about this section of our priestly mission, discuss your possibilities of forming a group available to the Diocesan Bishop for the performance of the "work of charity", as the new Ritual calls the exorcism, with confidence, humility and under obedience and his guidance!

The unanimous word of the exorcist is: prepare yourself, but have no fear! The official rite means an objective discipline and an action of the Church, whom we serve in selfless humility; our Association of Priests and the lay-members joined in prayer, give us support through prayer, the Sacrament of Confession and reciprocal support.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC