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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deadly Pinholes

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11).

August 19, 1990. The United Nations Coalition forces, led by the United States, were still a few months from enforcing the U. N. Resolutions against Iraq.
Dressed in camouflage green, I stood with nearly fifty other Navy and Marine Corps personnel in front of the warehouse at Camp Pendleton in California. We received our "sea-bag" gear the day before: helmet, sleeping bag, poncho, canteens and various other pieces of equipment necessary to conduct daily living in the middle of the desert. Today we would receive our chemical‑warfare protective gear: charcoal impregnated overgarments and gas mask with attached butyl rubber hood.

Chemical weapons, which include mustard, nerve and choking agents, can create large numbers of casualties for very low cost. Of the known chemical weapons in Iraq's arsenal, nerve agents caused the greatest concern because a droplet the size of a pinhead is sufficient to kill an unprotected person.

"Check your gear carefully," the supply sergeant said as he handed each of us our gas mask and green garment bag. "Make sure the garment bag is intact, and that your hood is free from holes."
Holes? I threw a suspicious glance at the sergeant and looked at my bag, turning it upside down and around in my hands. It looked intact. Next I examined my mask and hood. Everything looked okay.

Then I noticed the sergeant hold someone's rubber hood up to the sun, inspecting it from the underside. When he shook his head and tossed it into an already half‑full 50 gallon drum beside him, I looked back at my own hood, giving it much closer scrutiny. What at first appeared to be an intact hood, when held up to the light for closer examination, revealed scores of tiny holes no larger than – pinheads.

I used to wonder if there was a close parallel between preparing for military battle and preparing for spiritual battle. I no longer wonder about it. I know it to be true.

Among the items comprising the Christian's armor (see Ephesians 6), the Bible is central. It is the bedrock foundation of our defensive and offensive posture as we battle the subtle treacheries of Satan.

That is why St. Jerome said: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  It is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the faithful Catholic: "God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth." (Catechism paragraph 136). And it is why “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord” (Catechism paragraph 141)

But any warfare is not without its deceptive stratagems, and Satan is master at the game. Knowing how critical God's word is for the Christian, our deadly enemy diligently works to diminish its authority. One of his tactics is to introduce droplets of his toxins - not obvious vipers, but pinhead size worms - which for many believers render the Scripture, by degrees, impotent in their lives. You may have read some of these toxins in magazines and books, or heard them promulgated in movies, the workplace – or even in some churches. For example:                             
- The Bible is a compilation of moral stories, but cannot be trusted to represent the inerrant word of God.

- Because the stories were written by men and copied time after time through the centuries, significant errors are sure to have occurred in transmission.

- There are no absolutes upon which we may anchor our actions. Everything is relative.
- The Bible addresses the problems facing today’s people with archaic and uselessly outdated methods.
- What was considered sin in Bible days was rooted in the ignorance of a nomadic and intolerant people. Twenty-first century humanity is far more knowledgeable and tolerant about what should be considered wrong.

Had we been attacked with nerve agents, my defective chemical suit would have proven fatal for me. In the same way, I dare not engage in spiritual battle without ensuring my spiritual armor is intact. It is not the large gaping defects in doctrine which are the most dangerous. They can be easily spotted and dealt with. Rather, it is the small defects, the easily overlooked pinholes in the armor, which allow the seeds of death to take root.

As the history of the Church warns us, the strength and integrity of the Christian's spiritual armor is rooted uncompromisingly in God's word. That is why it is so critical, in the spiritual battles we face each day, to examine every philosophy, every thought, every idea under the light of Scripture – and for Catholics, how the Church interprets the Scripture. There is too much at stake to be sloppy or casual about our spiritual gear. Pinholes can develop too quickly.

And kill too easily.




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