THE ASCETICAL STRUGGLE
Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin, She was 11yrs from a poor family. You don’t need so much to make a difference in the world
*Many battles are waged each day in men’s hearts. *Our Lord’s constant help in the struggle.
Jacob’s mysterious wrestling-match with the angel in human form on the banks of the River Jabbok marks a pivotal turning point in the Patriarch’s life. Up till then Jacob had behaved in an all too human way, relying on purely natural means.
From that moment on he would put his trust above all else in God, who reaffirmed in him his Covenant with the chosen people.
Jacob was able to win in that contest only through the strength that God gave him, and the lesson to be learned from this event was that God’s blessing and protection would never be wanting in any of the difficulties that were to come.
The Book of Wisdom expresses it thus: In his arduous contest she gave him the victory, so that he might learn that godliness is more powerful than anything.
For the Fathers of the Church this scene from the Old Testament is an image of the spiritual struggle the Christian has to sustain against forces very superior to himself, and against his own passions and tendencies, which have inclined mankind towards evil ever since original sin was committed.
Saint Paul warns us that 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.
These are the rebel angels, who have already been vanquished by Christ, but who will not cease to incite man towards evil until the very end of his life on earth.
Every day there are contests within our hearts, Saint Augustine teaches. Each man fights against a whole army within his soul.
The enemies are pride, avarice, gluttony, sensuality, laziness … And, the saint adds, it is difficult to prevent those attacks from wounding us.
Nevertheless we can be certain of victory if we make use of the resources that God has given us, namely prayer, mortification, complete sincerity in spiritual direction, the help of our guardian angel and, above all, of our Mother, Mary.
Moreover, if He who has given his very life for us is the Judge in this contest, how can we fail to be rightfully proud and confident?
In the Olympic games, the referee stations himself between the two adversaries without favouring either one or the other, awaiting the outcome.
If the referee places himself equidistant from the two contenders, it is because his attitude is neutral.
In the struggle where we come face to face with the devil, Christ does not remain impartial; He is entirely on our side. How can this be?
‘You can see that from the moment we entered the lists’ – these are words spoken by Saint John Chrysostom to some Christians on the day of their Baptism – ’He anointed us whilst at the same time He bound the other in chains.
Us He has anointed with the oil of gladness, and the devil He has bound with unbreakable fetters so as to bring his assaults to nothing. If I stumble He holds out his hand to me: He raises me from my fall and He sets me on my feet again.
However many temptations, difficulties, or tribulations may assail us, Christ is forever our safeguard. He does not leave us. He is not neutral! He is always on our side.
We can all say with Saint Paul: Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat …, I can do everything in Christ who strengthens me, who gives me the help I need if only I turn to him and use the means He has established.
(In Conversation with God, daily meditation)
Our Lady Mediatrix of all graces, pray for us