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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Stumbling Blocks Part 3 (Holy Warriors Part 40)

Today’s readings:

Numbers 20:1-13

Psalm 95:1-9

Matthew 16:13-23

The Bible is full of instruction for holy warriors—from the Pentateuch, to the Psalms, to the gospels. So once again, we look at how holy warriors are to handle stumbling blocks they would constantly be faced with.

First, holy warriors do not back off in the face of opposition, even from within. They never back off from the work or the fight. They might make an occasional strategic retreat, but only for the sake of a more vigorous attack later. Moses and Aaron were severely attacked by God’s own people, who were always complaining, to the point of rebellion. This time it was about water. “Since the community had no water, they held an assembly against Moses and Aaron. The people quarreled with Moses” (Nm 20:2-3a). It must have been exasperating. But Moses looked beyond the infidelity of the people. He would accomplish the task given him by God, no matter what.

Second, in the midst of oppression and assaults, holy warriors do not lose their focus and do not forget on whom their life and work are centered. That is the Lord. The greater the assault on them, the more they seek the Lord. In the midst of all the complaints and animosity of the people, “Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting, where they fell prostrate.” (Nm 20:6). These were God’s people after all, and this was God’s work, so it was time to consult the Commander-in-Chief.

Third, holy warriors carry out the Commander-in-Chief’s commands to the letter, with full confidence in His ability to accomplish His purposes through them. Sometimes we doubt, we falter, we amend the instructions, we veer away, we lack faith. God told Moses to “to command the rock to yield its waters” in the presence of the community (Nm 20:8a). Whoa. Command the rock? That can be daunting to any warrior. Moses was no exception. He did take his staff and did strike the rock, and water did come out in abundance (Nm 20:9,11), but “Moses struck the rock twice with his staff” (Nm 20:11a). No big deal, you say. He was just making sure. Well, that precisely was the problem. God rebuked him, “because you did not have confidence in me” (Nm 20:12a).

God added further, that Moses’ action was supposed “to acknowledge my holiness before the Israelites” (Nm 20:12b). He alone was God. He was set apart from all other gods. Unlike other gods, He had real power. He could work miracles, like drawing water out of the rock. Moses’ striking the rock twice indicated some doubt on his part that God could work the miracle. Moses was making sure, adding his own humanity to the divine majesty of God. In fact, he had said to the people, “Are we to produce water for you out of this rock?” (Nm 20:10b). We? Holy warriors must never take the credit or the glory that is due only to God.

Fourth, holy warriors must never act in ways that indicate they think they know better than God, especially in using human versus divine wisdom. When Jesus was telling his disciples about his coming passion, Peter rebuked him! (Mt 16:22a). What weed was he smoking? Rebuking the Lord? Of course Peter had good intentions (don’t we all?). He did not want such suffering to come upon Jesus. After all, Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But what he was doing was preventing God’s will to happen, through the only way that would lead to salvation, the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb of God. He in effect was doing not the work of God but the work of Satan! And so Jesus rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mt 16:23). May holy warriors never be called Satan by Jesus himself.

Fifth, holy warriors are called to wage holy war, to be on the forefront, to be on the offensive. In appointing Simon as primus inter pares, Jesus said, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18). Given the rapid decrease of faith today, and the loss of many Catholics to the world, to sects and to cults, well-meaning people point to this assurance by Jesus, that his Church will be victorious in the end, so do not be so disturbed with what is going on. Of course the Church will be victorious. Even at Calvary the head of the serpent was already crushed. That is not the question. The question is: how many will be saved (or conversely, lost)? The Church will be victorious at the end, but will it be a very small flock? That is not good enough.

In fact, many people misinterpret this passage. In saying that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against the Church, people say that the Church can withstand the assaults of the enemy. Indeed. But see, gates are for defense, not offense. So in taking of the gates of the netherworld not prevailing over the Church, it is the Church that is doing the assaulting, and the gates of hell that are being assaulted will not stand. This means we are not just defending ourselves, but we are on the attack against the enemy. Holy warriors are active and aggressive combatants, taking the war to the enemy.

Holy warriors know who they are and what they are called to do. They know whom they serve, that “the Lord is the great God, the great king over all gods, whose hand holds the depths of the earth” (Ps 95:3-4a). He is all-powerful, and He is victorious. They know He looks to His holy warriors to defend and care for His flock, even as they themselves “are the people he shepherds, the sheep in his hands.” (Ps 95:7). Before going off to holy war, holy warriors present themselves before their King. “Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us.” (Ps 95:6).

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