I was momentarily confused and disoriented in my early years of seminary formation before I received a consoling advice from a priest in the confessional.
He said to me, "Choose the right battle and everything else will fall into place." I felt so relieved when it dawned on me that I did not have to face all my hassles and struggles at once but to seek the one that mattered most and devote all my energy to it. Clarity and peace returned as I followed his advice.
We too do not have to face all our battles at once but choose the battle that matters most at each moment. But what is the battle that matters most to a Christian? Well, what is the battle that matters most to Jesus Christ? That should tell us the battle that matters most to us as His disciples at every time and place.
The letter to the Hebrews says this about Jesus, "Consider how He endured much opposition from sinners." Jesus was hated by sinners, hunted down by Herod, calumniated, envied, and persecuted by the Jewish authorities, denied by His disciples and even opposed by His chosen disciples (Cf. Mt 16:23).
But Jesus did not fight sinners, His adversaries, and detractors. He did not insult them, retaliate or get back at them by revealing their hidden sins which He knew very well. "When He was insulted, He returned no insult; when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the one who judges justly" (1Pet 2:23).
Rather, He chose the battle of loving fidelity to His Father, to be faithful to His Father's mission and to be what His Father wanted Him to be. Most importantly, Jesus, being the Sinless One, chose to fight this battle for our sake. He chose the battle of destroying sin by the power of His love on the cross so that we too can hope to be faithful to God.
We too find inner joy when we choose the battle of resisting sin.
Choosing the right battle brought Him true joy: "For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross." Everything fell into place for Him when He chose this right battle. We too find inner joy when we choose the battle of resisting sin because we want to dedicate all our energy in being faithful to God.
We must be fully engaged in the relentless battle against sin in our lives and in the world if we are going to persevere and enter into the joyful rest that God desires for us. "Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that is set before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." Nothing kills perseverance in the spiritual life as surely and quickly as a permissive attitude to sin.
The crucifix reminds us of the pain and suffering that our Savior endured so that we can be faithful to God too. Let these words also ring in our hearts: "In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood" (See Heb 12:1-4). There is thus no price too high to pay to resist sin.
Jesus speaks of the painful battle He fully embraced to spread His own love in this world. "There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished" (Lk 12:50). If we too are going to spread this love, our first response is to resist sin in ourselves and in the world because sin kills love and good will and breeds selfishness. Someone caught in the throes of sin just cannot love in a supernatural way but always in a self-centered and conditional way. "Even sinners love those who love them … Even sinners do good to those who do good to them" (Lk 6:32,33).
We cannot resist the desire to retaliate or withdraw into ourselves if we are not first fully engaged in the interior battle against sin.
It is only when we are resisting sin within that we can actually begin to spread this love of Jesus to all others, sinners and saints alike. We do not fight others or retaliate in times of conflicts and divisions only because we have not yielded our interiors to the dominion of sin. Fighting others is not our battle at all, as Jesus warned us: "But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil" (Mt 5:39). We gain nothing when we return evil for evil in the name of fighting evil. But we just cannot resist the desire to retaliate or withdraw into ourselves if we are not first fully engaged in the interior battle against sin.
In short, when we do not fight sin and do so out of our desire to be more faithful to God who is ever faithful, we end up fighting all our neighbors. When we ignore our demons within, everyone else becomes like a demon to us. We thus contribute to the divisions in our world: "From now on, a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three." This is how we unknowingly contribute to discord and forfeit all inner peace and joy.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have neglected this important battle against sin (which is so easy to do in our scandalous and permissive times), if we have been rationalizing our sins away, we can begin today to fight this right battle with all that God has given to us. It is never too late to begin this most important battle against the forces of darkness within us.
If we choose this battle always and fight to the very end, everything else will fall into place for us and the deep abiding joy of the Lord will be ours.
Let us begin this battle against sin with a deep faith in God's abiding love for us just as we are. Remember that "God has loved us first," (1Jn 4:19) and "Christ died for us while we still sinners" (Rom 5:8). We cannot be faithful to Him in the face of temptations when we are doubting His own faithfulness to us. We fight sin with courage and perseverance only when we receive this love as a gift and believe in it always no matter how poorly we may fight the good fight.
We must also know and believe in the truth alone. We cannot fight sin if we have bought into the relativistic mindset that thinks that truth changes from person from person or from one time to another. We are pathetic in the battle against sin when we think that some members of the church's hierarchy or synods will somehow come and change divinely revealed truths about faith and morals. A soul that picks and chooses only convenient truths cannot expect to resist any sin.
We cannot resist the onslaught of sin without fervent and continuous prayer. Remember the words of Jesus, "Without me, you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5). Prayer unites us with Christ and opens our hearts to the power of divine grace, the only remedy to our sinful nature. The soul that does not persevere in prayer is one that has already conceded defeat to sin.
To resist sin, we must be vigilant in examining our consciences well. Pay attention to little sins and do not take them for granted because they grow and multiply fast. Someone once said, "Sins always come in tandem." We must form the habit of repenting for little sins, bringing them to the tribunal of divine mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation, before they grow and multiply.
Let us also place all our trust in God and His mercy and not in ourselves or our efforts or firm resolves. This battle against sin must not become a personal project to win accolades for ourselves. Remember that the desire to overcome sin comes from God and He alone can fulfil them in us. He is the only shepherd who "leaves the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one lost sheep" (Lk 15:4-5).
Lastly, let us cultivate a deeper devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Immaculate Mother of God is always "full of grace." She detests sin vehemently and loves us all immensely. Our sins pierce her heart too and she weeps with us in our struggles and failures. She knows the price paid for our sins because she witnessed her Son die a brutal death on the cross so we can share in His own fidelity to the Father. Thus, she will never disappoint or abandon us in this necessary battle against sin.
God, who desires us to be truly joyful, comes to us in each Eucharist. His grace and love move us to choose the right battle always, the battle to be faithful to God in the face of sin's many onslaughts. If we choose this battle always and fight to the very end, everything else will fall into place for us and the deep abiding joy of the Lord will be ours.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!
Fr. Nnamdi Moneme. "Choose to Fight the Battle Against Sin." Catholic Exchange (August 16, 2022).
Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.Copyright © 2022 Catholic Exchange
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