To those outside the law I became as one outside the law--not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ--that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:21-27
The Lord has groomed me for most of my adult life to be a winner in Christ for Him. From playing sport growing up, college, semi-pro, to nearly 27 years in the United States Army. I continue to grow and carve out this work in progress that the Lord is making of me.
Hosea reminds us that many are lost because of the lack of knowledge, this affects all surrounding those affected by the lukewarm attitudes we develop in our lives. We are to put on the whole Armour of God:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20
I love St. Paul's combination of using sports, military, and the spiritual to make give sound instruction to how we are to train for righteousness. 1 Timothy 4:7-9 states:
Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. Other Catholic translations change out "godliness" with "devotion"; godliness and devotion encourages us to be faithful to the teaching of the Church as we keep our eyes and azimuths straight and true on the Lord.
Have you ever been asked as a Catholic if you are "practicing" your faith? That is meant to ask you if you are really being faithful to Christ in His Church. That is a 24/7 question and answer.
Yes, Ephesians 2:8-10 speaks to grace being a free gift, plus faith is very much associate with that free gift. Verse 10 speaks to the good works that come as a result of that free gift given you. What is important on our part is that we must co-operate with the Lord growing through the free gift of grace. Our faith much be given nutrients so that we can bear good fruit. This is the heart of what St. Paul addresses.
This is why St. Paul places such importance in our training on the practice of our faith. It is not automatic that we grow. We must not stagnate and allow ourselves to fall away from our line of sight. There is a reason that the gifts of the Holy Spirit includes Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understand! Courage and fortitude are essential as well because life will challenge us and at times we are going to have to stand up and be accounted.
What Soldier will enter the battle without their opportunity to defend themselves? Have you ever heard the point that you don't depend on a knife in a gun fight? Let me bring this down a little further, what coach would allow anyone of their players on the football field to enter a game without functioning equipment? What parents would allow their children to play without their helmet and pads? Well, likewise, our faith is as important is not more so that we are prepared from an early age.
So how do we prepare for battle? What battles do we face? St Peter, our first Pope warns that Satan prowls about like a roaring lion searching for souls to devour. Unfortunately he has many puppets pushing his agenda that is seeking to turn back Christianity and bring back ancient Paganism. Satan is using the entertainment industry, movies, music, what is popular to erode family and biblical standards. What is sin when everyone is accepting sin?
I've always said that love and compassion does not equal toleration and acceptance, that is exactly what many are doing. Because of the spirit of compromise everywhere, the traditional family has suffered greatly impacting faith in the Western World. The battle is becoming intense as casualties mount everywhere. With all this being said, it is a great opportunity for the Church to have a great impact for those who seek to find the truth.
Thankfully, the Lord is in total control, consider the faith in the beginning that began with a ragtag group of Galileans who changed the world. They were not regarded as the most educated, yet, what they accomplished was do because of their faithfulness to give their lives for the Lord. They were prepared because of their faith without compromise. We need to get back to that!
Jesus established the Divine Mercy so that we can have greater access to His Sacred Heart. Our Lady continues to give the Church her Motherly influence appearing all over the world the past 2,000 years. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, to allow ourselves to grow here is vital, our co-operation is not simply a good thing, it is a requirement. Hence St. Paul's urging that we put on the whole armor of God.
We as Catholics need to place our faith to be front and center, how do we train ourselves for the major battles of our time. Certainly prayer is vital, the Rosary and the Divine Mercy are two essential devotions. To know our faith, to grow in our knowledge and to develop some backbone. To know what is right and seek to do God's Will in all things. That Fathers be good leaders in their families, that Mothers who are the heart of the family to work with their husbands. That children from the beginning be given a solid foundation in the faith.
Christians need to work towards voicing our positions and issues in the public square laying the foundations of our Constitution to keep alive our liberty to practice our faith in freedom. Ephesians 5:11 teaches us to have no fellowship, take no part with the unfruitful works of darkness but expose it. The importance to provide good Catechisis giving sound arguments that young people can avail themselves in our higher places of learning is critical to turn things around. Not just for personal individual opportunities of spiritual growth, but for the greater societal concerns.
It is key to recognize the battle, the attack on religious freedom, values, family, doctrine, coming from every side. It's like circling the wagons dodging the arrows aimed at the heart. We must put on our armor, but we also must grow from our very core to live out our faith. Like the Old Baltimore Catechism taught, to know God, Love God, and Serve God. I encourage you to take this Christmas Season and make this an opportunity to place the gift of ourselves to the Christ Child, make the Mass the center of your life.
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 about the world seeking the ruin of souls.