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The Easter Brigade

Easter is a time of joy – and spiritual warfare

By Ken Davison

So, what are you giving up for…Easter?

I know you just gave up something for Lent, and now you’re supposed to give up something for Easter, too? But, doesn’t Easter mean you don’t have to “give up” things anymore, and can relax and enjoy life?

Not really.

Think back to Easter Sunday Mass. Remember standing up and saying, “I do” to a series of questions and answers from the priest? You weren’t being released from the army, you were re-enlisting! That’s right: Lent was like military boot camp where (as I remember being told when I went through it myself), “The only easy day was yesterday.”

Right there in Easter Mass you were asked to give up something and agree to head to the battlefront.

What did you give up? You said you’d give up working for the enemy. In fact, you did it three times.

You said, “I do” when the priest asked you to “renounce Satan,” and “all his works,” and “all his empty show.” Or perhaps you were asked to renounce sin, and the lure of evil, and, finally, to publicly “renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin.” Having explicitly renounced Satan and sin, we all were asked to profess our faith before the priest sprinkled us with holy water.

Yes, sir: Lent wasn’t the final battle, just “basic training.” The real fight starts Easter morning.

Thank God for sending you out into battle with Easter Mass, in which you stood shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow soldiers. In ranks, you were all anointed with blessed water. Then, you marched forward in file to receive the sustenance of the Eucharist! You’re not alone, you’re well-trained, and you’re well-provisioned.

What can you expect to find on the battlefield, and how can you respond? Here are four thoughts from Catholic spiritual writers to make what you’ve “given up” for Easter seem a little easier.

1. Expect a real adversary: It isn’t fashionable in our individualistic culture to admit that anyone but yourself is your “own worst enemy.” Not true. Christians know that we are each battling something worse than our own weaknesses: a real adversary literally hell-bent on killing every individual soul – yours, mine, and those of your beloved. This enemy is outside of us, “prowling like a lion” to search out where we are least defended in order to personally attack us. Jesus at the start of his public ministry – a public ministry we have vowed to share through our Baptism! – faced temptations that came from outside of his human nature, so we need to expect the same and to act on this knowledge every day.

2. Expect others (and ourselves!) to sometimes cooperate with Satan: Just as we can cooperate with God to accomplish his will, we and others can sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, work to thwart God’s will. We can’t excuse our sins saying “the devil made me do it,” but he does tempt us to act. Indeed, the last petition in the Our Father is to “deliver us from evil,” because we can fall prey to it. Have you ever heard yourself say something or saw yourself do something that came from a malice that wasn’t simply your own weakness? I have — it’s shocking. Others do the same thing. So forgive, forget, and pray for them (and me, too).

3. Expect to be distracted and discouraged and divided and deceived: That’s how Satan and the other fallen angels usually try to impede our spiritual growth. Satan didn’t tempt Jesus with drama or terror. Likewise, most of us do not experience Satan in great displays of supernatural power, but in the grinding frustrations of our days, the erroneous seeds he plants in our minds (which we then cultivate ourselves), the divisions between us and our spouses, families, and friends that hurt us and cause us to pull back our love and understanding, the fatigue that makes us just want to give up the battle.

A special word of warning: your spouse and children were selected by God for you to help you get to heaven, as you were selected just for them — so expect Satan to especially target those intimate relationships.

4. Expect to need some help: What happened after Jesus sent Satan away in the desert? “Behold, angels came and ministered to him” (Matt 4:11). As Father John Hardon used to say, “Did Jesus need the angels to help him? No! But we do!” Every good soldier gets on the radio for reinforcements, so do the same. Call on St Michael the Archangel to protect your family, ask your spouse’s and children’s guardian angels for help, then “get back to headquarters” as frequently as possible to receive the sacraments and recover from the battle.

The best thing about this war? You’ve joined the winning side by your Baptism! Just make sure you’re not AWOL in the fight. So, I guess it’s not too much to ask you to “give up” the option of working for the enemy.

Ken Davison is the founder of Holy Heroes, a Catholic family apostolate that offers resources and inspiration. He and his wife live in North Carolina with their eight children.