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John the Baptist Testimony to Christ

Stained glass of John the Baptist testifying to Christ.

It’s been over three months since I’ve posted anything on Reflections of a Lay Catholic. In a strange way, I wish I could tell you that I’ve been experiencing a dry spell, or had writer’s block, or have just been too busy to post. But, I’d be lying. The truth is I’ve written a half dozen blog-worthy reflections during this last quarter. But, I didn’t post them because I was afraid.

I first began experiencing this fear in May. I didn’t know what it was nor why I was feeling afraid. I posted a few times this summer but each posting took more courage and strength than the one before it. Finally, after my last post in September, I was able to define my fear, and, once I did, I couldn’t make myself post again.

My fear was that when others read my posts, they think that my personal reflections of how I am inspired by seeing God work in my life are attempts to brag at my growth in holiness, that I’m exhibiting a “holier-than-thou” attitude, and that I’m writing for the purpose of having my ego stroked. It wasn’t a fear that had me shaking in my shoes but it was debilitating, nonetheless. I was stymied.

I spent a lot of time rereading my reflections and thinking about how the messages in them might be perceived by my readers. Even though I could find nothing to support why I was afraid, my fear remained strong.

I cautiously ventured to ask some trusted friends if they sensed a lack of humility in my reflections. They answered just the opposite, that my posts gave credit to God working through me. I knew they wouldn’t lie to me but I still doubted them.

I questioned why God chose me to share my faith through my writing. Why didn’t he choose Joe or Steve, or any of the other men who were with me that weekend when we were renewed in Christ? I found some comfort in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”

Although I believed God had chosen me to share my faith and proclaim His Word to show others how He works in my life so that they can learn to see Him working in their own, I wondered if I was abusing the gift He had given me.

I meditated on why I write and share with others and whether I was being honest with myself. I learned from this that I have two different purposes: I write for myself. But, I post for the potential benefit of others.

I write every day to get more in touch with my own spirituality and I’ve discovered it’s one of the ways I learn. I know if I don’t write it down, I will forget it before the winds of worldly busy-ness whisk it away. During my morning prayer and meditation, I reflect on the scripture and I write what I hear God saying to me. Then I write how that understanding might relate to my life that day. And, finally, I make a resolution to take what I learned and apply it in some way that will make me a better version of myself.

Occasionally, I think, I believe that my inspiration might be worth something to other people. Thus, I try to write my thoughts and insights in such a way that others might find them valuable in building a stronger relationship with Christ. Then, I post, hoping that others may find God’s grace in the little things of their own lives and that they will grow in their own holiness.

Since I retired in May, I have tried to grow in holiness by attending daily mass and by reading and meditating daily on scripture to listen to what God wants me to hear that day. My desire has been to grow holier than I was the day before, not holier than someone else. This regimen has brought immense peace into my life and a closeness to Christ.

In November, while I was meeting with a group of other men, including our Deacon, I opened up about my fear and I mentioned some of these things. After some conversation, our Deacon, who saw that it was no coincidence that my fear and my new prayer life both began in May, asked if I’d considered that perhaps Satan was messing with me since I’d been especially focused on strengthening my relationship with Jesus. I had to admit that thought had never crossed my mind.

I had heard of this phenomenon from many people but had never consciously experienced it myself. In reading the lives of the saints, I’d heard them mention this same thing. I realized I had just had my first taste of spiritual warfare.

After admitting I had not considered the devil sabotaging my spiritual life, I was even more ashamed that I had not done the one thing that would have simplified it all: pray for help and understanding about what was going on. I hadn’t turned to Christ for help; I’d tried to manage it all myself. Later that night, before bed, I did turn to Him in prayer.

The next morning I awoke and took my place in my comfortable chair to spend my time in silence, solitude and meditation. After my regular morning prayers, I went to my phone app to read the daily scripture passages and about the saint of the day. When I clicked on the latter, some quotes by well-known saints popped up:

“When the servant of God endeavors with all his strength to possess and preserve that joyousness of spirit which proceeds from purity of heart, and which is acquired by fervent prayer, the demons may try in vain to hurt him.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“We need to be especially alert to the evil subtlety of Satan. His one desire is to keep people from having a mind and heart disposed to their Lord and God….He wants to extinguish the light of the human heart.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” – St. Catherine of Sienna

“Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

I kid you not!  God answered my prayers that morning.

Over the last three weeks I’ve been debating how to get started again posting my reflections. I knew if I didn’t begin again, the evil one would win this round. I wasn’t sure how to resume and, to be honest, I’ve been procrastinating. Until today.

At mass this morning, I heard the lector read from Isaiah 61, “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor…”, and the purpose of my reflections came to mind.

In the Psalm, I repeated, “My soul rejoices in my God” and I gave thanks for the relationship we have.

In the second reading, 1 Thes 5:18, I heard, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus”, and it occurred to me that I had not thanked God for this long and painful experience.  I thanked Him.

In the Gospel, John 1:6-7, I heard our priest proclaim, “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” I couldn’t help but think that this was God telling me it’s time for me to get off high center. It’s time for me to resume testifying to the light of Christ. My daily resolution was to write and post this, to alert others to the devil’s designs, and to get it behind me so I can move forward.

After mass I sat down to complete my daily meditation before beginning to write. I read the day’s reflection by Fr. Francis Fernandez from In Conversation with God, Vol. 1, 114, “What is more, we should have no opportunities at all for growing in virtue if we had no obstacles to overcome.”

Ain’t that the truth!

“Thank You, Lord, for Your love. Thank You for Your gentle ways of teaching. Thank You for Your patience as I learn to love You more. Lord, help me to never stop pointing others to you and witnessing the truth of Your Word and grace. Amen.”

“St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

(A Taste of Spiritual Warfare was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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