The Tactic of the evil one
The human father has been divinely ordained with the power and authority to transmit God’s glory to his wife and children. This is the essence of authority, of fatherly leadership: to share one’s power and glory. The human father must become the king of his domestic kingdom in order to transfer the kingship of Christ to his children. In order to share God’s glory, we fathers must—at some level—possess God’s glory, which indicates that we must also possess and rule ourselves. As mentioned during our last session, a king who masters himself is worthy of being known as master. A king who rules his own power is capable of ruling with power without power ruling him. Today we will begin our series: The Father of Lies the deadly enemies of fatherly leadership. The evil one is determined to strike down the human father, the leader of the family, because he knows that if the shepherd is struck, the sheep of the flock will be scattered. Satan’s tactic is very simple: the evil one tempts us to believe a lie, and begin to live from that lie, which would grant him rule over us rather than us ruling ourselves for Christ. The more we believe the deceptions of the evil one, the weaker and less effective is our fatherly leadership.
Responding to God’s Commands: The test
Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, a handsome man—perhaps the most handsome man in all of Israel—literally head and shoulders above his fellow men, was chosen by God to be the king of the Israelites. Early in Saul’s kingship, Samuel the prophet was sent by God to Saul with the command to destroy the Amelekites. “I have reckoned up all that Amalek hath done to Israel: how he opposed them in the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now therefore, go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that he hath. Spare him not, nor covet anything that is his; but slay both man and woman and child and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Sam 15:2-3) From the time that the Israelites fled from captivity in Egypt to the time of Saul, the Amelekites who used witchcraft to secure victory, besieged the Israelites on many occasions. In fact, during the Exodus account, Amelek and his men smote and tortured the hindmost Isrealite travelers that were most feeble. It was said of Amelek in Jewish literature that he was “like a leach eager for blood”, “like a fly looking for sores to feed on”—hence the meaning of the name Amelek, “the people which licketh.” (Jewish Encyclopedia) The primitive ethic of blood-feud, in ancient cultural tradition, was the only protection of the life of the individual and tribe, its execution was considered a sacred duty. (See dictionary of the Bible, McKenzie S.J) (God’s ways are not our ways. Saul did not fully obey the Lord’s command, and the Amelkites continues to destory the Isrealites until David eventually smote them.) Saul, as king, was ordained to fulfill God’s command of exterminating the Amelekites. Saul mustered two hundred thousand soldiers and waged war on the Amelekites and smote them, yet he kept for himself “Agog the king (most likely for ransom), and the best of the flocks of sheep and herds, and the garments, and rams and all that was beautiful and would not destroy them. (See 1 Sam 15:9) After the battle, Samuel the prophet went out to meet Saul, saying, “What is the meaning of the bleating of the sheep and lowing of herds which I hear.” (1 Sam 15:14)
Being respected by People vS. Respecting God
Sauls’ response to Samuel is very telling. First he blames the people for not fulfilling the Lord’s command, “the people spared the best to be sacrificed to the Lord your God.” (1 Sam 15:5) And again, a bit later he adds, “But the people took the spoils of sheep, as first fruits of those things that were slain, to offer sacrifice to the Lord their God.” (1 Sam 15:21) And finally, Saul admits, “I have sinned, I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, fearing the people and obeying their voice.” (1 Sam 15:24) Saul’s words reveal one of the greatest enemies of authentic leadership—living for the respect of men. Saul’s words revealed that he respected people more than he respected God, and this disorder caused him to obey the voice of the people rather than the Word of the Lord. His words also reveal that he had a disordered fear of the people rather than a holy fear of God. In other words, Saul was afraid of losing the people’s favor, their following, their liking him on facebook. Indeed, Saul obeyed the people’s desires rather then obeying the desires of the Lord. Samuel responded to Saul saying, “Does the Lord desire holocausts and victims and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken better than to offer fat of rams. Because rebellion is like witchcraft and disobedience like idolatry.” (1 Sam 15:22-23) What can we deduce from all of this? When we live for human respect, to be honored, noticed, affirmed, lauded by men, building our following and fan page, we will eventually become slaves to their perception of us. If they like us today, we like them— and strive to maintain them as fans and followers. If they don’t like us tomorrow, we adapt to make them like us. When this dynamic occurs we fear people and obey their voice and eventually become disobedient to the Word of the Lord. Human respect and entrusting ourselves to the respect and honor of men is one of the greatest enemies of fatherly leadership, and if submitted to, will eventually diminish our effectiveness in transmitting God’s glory to our family. Why? Because deep down, our family knows that we have sold out to human respect. And our children cannot help to learn from our behaviors. Crowd-pleasers usually promise some type of material good or glamour rather than virtue. Virtue is difficult to “sell” and convince people to desire—especially our children. And yet, our children will eventually resonate with the man of virtue rather than the sell-out.
Our view of Self determines our family’s future
If disobedience is often a consequence of obeying human respect, what then is the cause of our longing for human respect? The answer to this question, and the key to the entire account of Saul’s disobedience is found in 1 Sam 15:17: Samuel after receiving Saul’s pitiable response reveals something alarming about Saul’s character, “Though you view yourself as little in your own eyes, are you not made the king of Israel. (See 1 Sam 15:17) This word “little” in Hebrew (quaton) is actually translated as small, insignificant, unworthy, little value of self. Saul had an inverted self-value, an inferiority complex. Rather than thinking about himself less, Saul thought less of himself. This inverted self-value led Saul to feel insecure, unworthy, un-confident and inferior, which is all caused by a lack of trust in God as the Father. As in Saul’s case, this lack of trust in God leads to covetousness, disobedience of God’s commands, blaming our neighbor for our problems and eventually jealousy and condemnation of our neighbor. Inverted self-value is not true, it is not of God, because God does not make junk. Like Worm Tongue from the Lord of the Rings, who whispered lies into King Theoden’s mind—possessing him—the evil one constantly whispers his self-deprecating lies into our heart, attempting to convince us that we are not chosen by God, that He does not love us and does not have a mission for us, and that He has not given us the power to help change this broken world. The evil one’s goal is to have us repeat these self deprecating thoughts to ourselves until we believe them—then he can go on vacation because we are doing his evil job for him—and doing so, he has rendered us useless in God’s plan. What is the consequence of such self-inverted thinking? The answer is found in Saul’s response to Samuel. Saul begs Samuel the prophet to return with him before all the people as a sign of God’s approval of Saul’s actions. Saul is still worried about the respect of his people. Samuel though, refused to return with Saul and turned to walk away, when suddenly Saul grabbed a hold of the skirt of Samuel’s mantle—tearing it. Samuel responds, “just as you have rent my garment, so the kingdom of Israel will be taken from you and given to thy neighbor who is better than thee.” (1 Sam 15:28) The consequence of the father-leader living for human respect and abiding by human respect is the eventual loss of his kingdom—his family. This indicates that if we cannot rule human respect, human respect will rule us and our families, leading us all to disobedience.
The Antidote: Trust in the Father
What then is the antidote to the sickness of longing for human respect? The Gospel of John tells us that at the beginning of Jesus ministry, “many believed in his name, seeing the signs that He was working. But Jesus did not trust Himself to them, in that He knew all men, and because he had no need that anyone should bear witness concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John: 24-25) Our Lord trusted in His Father. This is the key to overcoming the deadly sin of clinging to the respect of men—trust in God. Indeed, “those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion—they cannot be shaken they abide forever.” (See Psalm 125:1) And again, “Those who trust in the Lord will not be put to shame.” (See Rom 10:11). “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (See Psalm 118:9) These words are promises from our Lord. But why is it so difficult to believe them? Because it hurts when others are noticed and we are unnoticed; when others are chosen and we are set aside; when others are selected for some good work or some friendship and we are overlooked. This causes interior anguish. The key is to trust, even when we are overlooked, not chosen, set aside by men ,and offer to God the interior pain and believe that he has something great in store for us. We obtain grace for ourselves and our families by offering that internal pain as a prayer to God, while asking God to bless the person who has been chosen, noticed and selected. When we do this, God will give us the grace to be set free from the chains of yearning to be noticed, admired and lauded by people. When a man overcomes the sickness of longing for human respect—while all the while trusting in God—God will use such a man to accomplish great things. He is looking for men who are willing to overcome the addiction to human respect—but today there are so few men who do so. Let us, as Fathers of St. Joseph, be among those few who make themselves available to God by overcoming the craving to be liked and noticed by men.
Go To joseph
Let us, fathers, constantly ask our patron St. Joseph, a most hidden, silent, humble father, who lived not to be noticed by men, but rather to be known to God alone for the grace to be little, silent and hidden. Joseph’s silence speaks profoundly of the glory of fatherhood. His hiddenness reveals the secrets of being a great father, and his littleness teach us that those who are humble and obedient will one day be exalted. Let us, like Joseph, trust wholeheartedly that God is our Father.