The pastoral exhortation Amoris Laetitia is finally here, it is rather massive and it will take a while to digest its contents. In some cases the scriptures cited there don’t appear to be linked quite well but further reading and meditation may help me find a deeper connection.
We are presently engaging the enemies of mankind in close combat. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
At the time St Paul wrote those words the battle raged but the conflict was not as close as it is now. Facing the enemy eye to eye allows us to clearly see his objectives. We have not learned anything new: the enemy still wants to subjugate creation with the intention of obliterating God’s work. God created the world as an act of love; the enemy wants to destroy it as an act of hate. The devil hates God because he envies Him. His envy is caused by contemplating God’s happiness. Since God’s joy is infinite and perfect, the envy provoked on the enemy’s sick soul ends up being like those “black holes” described by astrophysicists as “a region of the space with such strong gravitational effects that not even light can escape from inside it.” God is Light according to St John: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5. The “message we have heard from Him” is light and we are supposed to reflect it. The devil and his minions cannot perfectly reflect God’s light because they are consumed by that original envy. That makes them impervious to God’s love and incapable of living in God’s happiness.
The main objective of the devilish forces is to destroy God. Of course that is a complete impossibility and the devil knows it well but envy is essentially a form of madness isn’t it? Envy proposes not to be happy as “myself” but wanting to be happy only as “the other.” That schizophrenic drive leads the soul to self-destruction. The envious soul concludes: “I cannot exist as myself, I need to exist as the object of my envy.” Since no one can choose to be someone else, that definition ends up being just an elaborate form of suicide. The envious soul is blinded to its own destiny and begins a descent into madness.
Part of that madness is the irrational hate of all the attributes of God and the mad intention to generate its opposite. St John taught us: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16) God, His love, and life cannot be separated.
God is good, and He is a benefactor. Everything He does benefits those who love Him. We can call that the Divine Paternity. God is a Good Father for all His creatures because He gives them life and light. God’s paternal gift to His creatures is first life itself and then the light that keeps them alive in Him. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
Today we can see clearly that the devil is pointing his guns at paternity. Why? Because all paternity comes from God, paternity points at the ineffable “Father of lights.” Just as the Father dispenses life, light, and truth; the devil does the opposite. Jesus explained that to some of the devil’s servants: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) The devil aims to replace God’s fatherhood with a false version of his own substituting light, truth, and life with darkness, lies, and ultimately death.
The attack on fatherhood we see in our societies today is the direct result of the devil’s work. As we approach the end of this wicked order, that attack has intensified. There is a simple but powerful example I often use to illustrate this point. I recall the image of the American father portrayed by Robert Young in the television series Father Knows Best. In only a few years, by 1968 or so, that image of the American father evolved into Mike Brady, the father of The Brady Bunch, played by Robert Reed (a well known homosexual actor.) The father of the Brady family is a more effeminate character. In fact there is more masculinity in the characters of Carol Brady (played by Florence Henderson) and the housekeeper Alice Nelson (played by Ann B. Davis.) Moving forward in time other popular American family sitcoms evolved the father figure towards more goofy and ridiculous characters like Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) of Married with Children, then Homer Simpson of The Simpsons, to finally arrive to the monstrous Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) of Breaking Bad. The devil’s public relations department has been busy “evolving” the American father models in pop culture away from goodness and closer to wickedness. That is an important part of the battle raging all around us. Those popular television characters are a good way to represent the “crescendo” of wickedness currently affecting our societies. Divorces, abortions, births out of wedlock, sterile lifestyles, physical abuse: all of the ills of the modern family can be traced back to the war on paternity declared by the forces of darkness in the spiritual realm.
Pope Francis’ preoccupation is justified; these are not easy times to grow families. Our first Pope had the same dangers in mind when he wrote twenty centuries ago: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
The devil is busy trying to destroy humanity by separating us from our Father in heaven. That has resulted in a lot of grief for many faithful but take heart, evil will not prevail!
Remember when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land? Before the Israelites took over Canaan they had to fight the inhabitants of the land and defeat them. We are in a very similar situation today. It is important to remember that God is good, He is a benefactor, He is our Father, and He won’t allow the Church to be defeated by the evil enemy. Even if the devil seems to infiltrate and take over every corner we must continue saying: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” We must stick to our orders and be a source of light in an increasingly dark world.
After crossing the Jordan the Israelites gathered on the plains of Jericho. God ordered the men to be circumcised one more time. That was a sign for us that we must “leave the flesh behind” and do our best not to be tempted by the enemy in the midst of the battle. A few days after the circumcision, once the men were healed, the manna stopped falling and Israel gathered and ate food from the land. That was also an important sign. Now the men had to trust in God and go forward to take the land. One kind of gift (the manna) was replaced by a greater gift (the land.) At that time they celebrated their first Passover beyond the Jordan river. The sign was now becoming a reality. The next sign was an angel appearing before Joshua to give him instructions for the taking of Jericho, the first city they were going to conquer. The Israelites marched around Jericho in silence once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh day carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Their last instruction was to give a mighty shout to make the walls of the city crumble. Jericho fell that Saturday but Rahab the prostitute that hid the Israelite spies in her home survived. She was received by the community, and became an ancestor of King David and also of Jesus of Nazareth. That is a powerful sign of the unfathomable mercy of God. (Joshua 6:1-24)
The Israelites of that time were facing powerful enemies just like the ones we are facing now. Behind those enemies was the same wicked spirit that inspires our enemies today. The odds of Israel conquering the Promised Land were apparently slim. Yet a descendant of Rahab of Jericho conquered Jerusalem on the other end of that territory only four generations after crossing the Jordan. That descendant was David the King, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Rahab of Jericho. The faith of the lowly prostitute of Jericho went not without a reward: she became an ancestor of the Messiah.
We are standing now in the plains of a larger Jericho. The thick walls of a depraved culture are before us. Those walls were built by the enemies of God, by people that do not want the blessing of God’s paternity. Our duty now is to shout the Gospel with a mighty shout until the walls come crumbling down. The time of the enemy’s demise has come, we have them surrounded and they have nowhere to go. (Joshua 6:1) For faith, and family, and most of all for our glorious Father: let us give a mighty shout.