Ephesians 6: 10-17 / Matthew 18: 23-25
There comes a time when fans of comic book heroes step back and confront, in a bit of disbelief, a fundamental question of the whole drama. Why should it be that our heroes do not find a way, once and for all, to put an end to their archvillains? Why is Lex Luthor, even when his evil plots are foiled, only put somewhere from which Superman knows perfectly well he can and will escape? Why does Batman do the same with Joker, knowing that Arkham Asylum simply will not hold this homicidal maniac within its walls? It is not as though they do not have the power to do so. Superman could, at any moment, effectively put an end to Lex Luthor, and the Joker is ultimately only a mortal man, as capable of meeting his maker as any other.
Closer to our daily life, we often find ourselves asking this question not of super-powered heroes and their nemeses, but of our bosses, our superiors, our bishops, and even ourselves. How can the boss know what he knows about such-and-so yet seem to do nothing about her? When will the superior put his foot down and call back to obedience those brothers whose obedience to the Rule is not only less than stellar, but positively corrupting of the community? Why doesn't the bishop act decisively to end the countless abuses of teaching and worship in his diocese? If only I were in charge ...
Now, if the real problem were our neighbors, the wayward, even mean-spirited sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, if they were in fact the enemy, then a refusal to call them to heel or crush them underfoot might well be a sign of a failure of governance, a failure to exercise just rule. However, in this life, even the most wicked is still potentially a son of God the Father, our brother in Jesus Christ, befriended by the Holy Spirit. Restrain their wicked behavior, yes, call them to repentance, certainly. Even so, however much they stand in our way, however much they have set their faces against us, they are not our enemy.
As St Paul reminds us, our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Human wickedness, however dire or baleful, is a sign of tragic collaboration which can be, and by God's grace for many will be, overcome. It is rather the Devil and his angels, those twisted spirits freely and irrevocably bent away from the Lord God, who are our enemy. Upon them we may freely pour our hatred, the righteous hatred of a spirit conformed to God's Sacred Heart that looks upon final, unrepentant evil with hatred and loathing.
But, what does that hatred for the dark spirits look like? In fact, it looks like patience and a willing suffering of the ills inflicted upon us, all the while loving our neighbor and hoping for his conversion. It means preaching the Gospel with a gentle urgency, longing for the conversion of our our hearts as well as the hearts of those who hear our proclamation, yet accepting with calm assurance the rejection even of our best efforts, trusting the provident love of God to accomplish all according to his good pleasure. In the end, the armor we put on, the shield we bear, and the sword we wield are our uncompromising refusal to be made into the image and likeness of the Evil One. To fight the unwholesome, rebellious angels means to embrace Christ alone as our hope, to find in him and in his patient love of sinners the very source of our own life.
This is the angelic warfare into which every one of the baptized has been enlisted. The weapons of our combat have been put before us. Are we ready to take up the fight?