Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Ants Come Marching One by One…So I Prepare for Battle

It all started a few days ago. 
Jacob and I were sitting in our living room, when we saw it: a tiny ant, scurrying across the floor. Quickly, we killed it, hoping that no more ants would come along. As we were eating breakfast this morning, we saw another one. A carpenter ant (those are much bigger) was marching across our kitchen floor. Memories of “ant infestations” while living in New York rushed through my head. We need to end this before it goes wild, I thought. After praying our Rosary, I knew what to do. I figured that the only sensible thing to do in this situation was to gird my loins and prepare for battle against the ants.

I don't understand why more people
don't walk around in this fashion every day;
it's so practical and comfy!
(Plus it makes me feel like I've stepped
out of the Bible. Or Aladdin.)
Gird my loins? This phrase pops up throughout the Bible, and as a child, I had no clue what it meant. A few years back, at Totus Tuus training, one of our guest speakers—a Franciscan U graduate, I proudly add—demonstrated how to “gird your loins.” Simply wrap your skirt/tunic under your legs, and tuck it in your belt/hem in the front. The speaker explained that men in Biblical times did this to “get to work,” “be ready and alert,” and that kind of thing. Well, all these phrases describe what I needed to do this morning. I had to be alert and go to battle with these ants! So I girded my loins and began scrubbing every inch of the kitchen and bathroom that I could reach, so no ant would find crumbs of food or welcome tidings. I needed to show these ants that I meant business!

My hands covered in sudsy water, the truth hit me: just as I was preparing my defenses against ants—to avoid an onslaught of them—we all need to prepare ourselves spiritually before an onslaught of sin comes. It can be really tempting to “not worry about” keeping up a hardcore sacramental life when all is going well. Why go to Confession if you don’t have mortal sin on your soul? Why go to daily Mass when once a week is perfectly acceptable? Even if we don’t continually fall into mortal sin, we daily battle against the devil. We all have concupiscence, the tendency to sin, and the devil is only too ready to take us under his command. We shouldn't let temptations go unnoticed, and fall into small sins without a care. We need to attack the devil and sinful habits before they grow to be huge. The sacraments are a beautiful gift from God, and when we actively immerse ourselves in a sacramental life, we become drenched in the graces that God freely pours out upon us, and are much-aided in conquering sinful practices.

Honestly, I can notice when I've neglected to go to daily Mass or Confession. I’ll start being more short-tempered and impatient with others, more bitter, and less loving. I'm not actively participating in the sacramental life as much as usual, so it makes sense. The Eucharist, God’s own Flesh and Blood, is food for my body and soul. When I receive the Eucharist, God is in my body. How cool is that? What a wonderful defense against evil, what a tremendous gift, to be so intimately united with Jesus Christ! When I go to Confession, God is both forgiving me of my sins and pouring down graces to help me avoid sin.
 There is an awesome quotation from St. John Chrysostom, which really hits me with the sheer epicness of the Mass and the Eucharist:
“Let us return from that Table like lions breathing out fire, terrifying to the devil!”

It is vital that I “gird my loins” not just while cleaning/defending our apartment from ants, but I need to spiritually “gird my loins.” I need to take courage, get to work, and actively live a life in God’s grace (through the Sacraments) and daily trample over the devil. We need to be alert to both the movements of God and the sneakings (I just made up that word) of the devil, so that we may recognize temptation, overcome it, and throw ourselves into God’s arms.

“Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armor of God, so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” –Ephesians 6:10-17