BACK FOR GOOD
You know like when you haven’t done something in such a long while and the mere thought of doing it again gives you a tingly sensation? Well, that’s what I experienced right before I whipped out my computer and opened this blog page. Spiritual laziness is a terrible thing indeed and the amount of forces that conspire to effect it in a Christian’s life is mind boggling. We’re currently doing Life in the Spirit Seminar Series at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy in Lekki, Lagos (ccdmlekki) and this has been vital in reviving me to return to my Calling and Purpose – to be a scribe and unite the Body of Christ.
We had a speaker come to the parish who gave an amazing insight on the identity and manifestations of the spirit of the world. At first I thought, it was a peculiar message title, but then I realized that I had been a victim of this spirit of the world from time to time. He started by explaining that the spirit of the world denies the supremacy and dominion of God as seen in the serpent’s utterance to Eve in Genesis 3:4-5 “…You will not die, but God knows that the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”
He stated that we become like thieves when we succumb to this spirit of the world because God made us for Himself to be in union with Him and we are not meant to be gods unto ourselves, as Eve had tried to be. Eve succumbed to the spirit and robbed God by seeking to break away and be a god unto herself. How many times do we fall into this trap? I often hear people say that they are not proud, but just confident. The test is whether in esteeming themselves, they attribute all they have and are to God who gave them and made them for His pleasure or whether they adopt the stance that they are self-made.
HOW DOES IT MANIFEST
Now this spirit of the world is as cunning as the world in which it operates. The speaker cited 1 John 2:15-16 “For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever” to explain the 5 ways in which this spirit manifests.
- concupiscence of the eyes
- concupiscence of the flesh
- pride of life
- disobedience of God’s law
- abuse of created things
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in paragraph 1264 that there is “an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence ‘is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.’ ” This concupiscence is a tinder for sin and a flammable substance used to light a fire. It shows itself in an intense form of human desire which contradicts reason.
CONCUPISCENCE OF THE EYES
This is arguably the most subtle of all forms of manifestation, especially when we hear phrases like “there’s no harm in looking.” The speaker explained that this tinder shows itself in an unwholesome curiousity and inordinate love of the world’s goods and material possessions. What better way for the spirit of the world to manifest than to show itself in this this kind of love and attraction to things of the world? He reminded us that we should not forget that the eyes are the window of the soul so we should not adopt the adage that there is no harm in looking. The importance of the eyes is littered in scripture; so much so that Jesus advises us to pluck out our eyes if they are causing us to sin in Matthew 18:9. St Alphonso Liguori supports this by stressing the number of people who have become lost by indulging in sight.
Now, we all know that some of us are more visual than others and knowing this, we should go the extra mile to protect ourselves from what are eyes rest upon. I recall having to pray my way out of an image that immediately downloaded from a whatsapp group of which I was part. After such an ideal, I immediately changed my whatsapp settings to manual download. For those who have not yet done that, I highly recommend you do because all it takes is a single snapshot of the iris. I even go as far as not opening any image until I seek confirmation from the sender as to what it is. Social media is awash with so much gruesome and tempting images which pop into our minds at the most inopportune times and lure us to succumb to the spirit of the world against which we must protect ourselves indeed.
Then there’s the material possession angle which I only recently started to truly rid myself from when I realized that the more materials you acquire, the more your soul is endangered. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 19:24 that “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The speaker stated that having an inordinate love of the world’s goods and material possession robs charity and God is charity so in essence, we are robbing God when we find ourselves succumbing to this spirit.
CONCUPISCENCE OF THE FLESH
Deep down we all know that this is an expression of the spirit of the world. I once went on a vacation abroad and decided to head to a nearby beach which was reputed to be enjoyable. I arrived at a time when the population was not as dense and settled down to read a book which I was enjoying intensely. When I looked up to take a break and enjoy the waves, I observed that there was a naked couple running around on the beach. I blinked in disbelief and tried to look away, as I found myself embarrassed for them. They did not seem to mind, however. As I looked to my right, I saw another naked couple so I looked to my left but alas, I saw several more couples. Indeed, the population had grown and there were more naked people on the beach. When I inquired as to why, they explained that I was at a nudist beach. I can’t recall how long my mouth was ajar but that was one unforgettable experience.
Now, my question is this – how on earth did we get to a point where a nudist beach is the order of the day? Some advocates of this remind me that Adam and Eve were naked in the garden of Eden. They were indeed, but they forget to consider what happened after they disobeyed God in Genesis 3:7 “Then their eyes were opened and both of them knew they were naked. So they sewed leaves of a fig tree together and made themselves loincloths.” So, why did they not just run around like those at the nudist beach? I mean, they could because they were even actually married. The speaker explained that God actually clothed them to prevent the inordinate use of the sexual gift and that the gift is disordered when it is sought for itself and departs from the twin purpose of procreation and union.
This tinder of the flesh is one which is as old as time immemorial and one which the speaker commented was the most dangerous of all evil thoughts. We see it on our streets under the guise of clothing considered fashionable or trendy. We let the spirit of the world run wild not only outside places of worship, but also now within its four walls and unfortunately by those who pride themselves as not associating with the spirit of the world. Who are we deceiving when the tongue speaks of chastity but the whole body reveals impurity? The speaker stressed that we needed to determine whether we speak as we dress or dress as we speak.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in paragraph 2521 that “Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.” The speaker enjoined us to acquire the virtue of chastity in opposition to this spirit of the world. This not only entails that one becomes an apprenticeship of self-mastery but also avoids impure speech.
PRIDE OF LIFE
Eve wanted to be like God so she succumbed to the spirit of the world and fell for the devil’s lie. The speaker stated that pride is the unrestrained and improper appreciation of God’s worth and that a proud man is a thief because he forgets that he owes his life to God. He explained that a proud man does not know himself because he does not know that he owes himself to God. He further stated that it follows that if you cannot know yourself, you cannot know God because God is interior and it is this lack of knowledge which exposes you to the spirit of world showing itself in the pride of life.
He stressed that we should become holy and not only appear holy and cautioned against what he called fake humility such as when one speaks negatively about themselves, just so others can appreciate them or when someone lies to pretend that he or she is humble. When we realize that all is circumstance, opportunities and time, then we rise up against this spirit of the world and start dismantling the pockets of pride in our lives.
DISOBEDIENCE OF GOD’S LAW
Have you ever heard this subtle voice which suggests that what you are doing is not as bad as you imagine? Such tactics can be traced to the serpent’s comment to Eve in Genesis 3:1 when he craftily asked “did God really say you should not eat…?” The speaker stressed that we should take God’s words and laws seriously and be careful of such suggestion. Then he mentioned something that made me think – that coming to prayer meetings or work is a sin as it does not honour our fellow man nor does it treat them as we would be treated as we are commanded to do by God in Romans 10:12-13 and Matthew 7:12.
ABUSE OF CREATED THINGS
This ties into the heightened perception that man may have of himself. He forgets that there is a natural order to things which was set by the one who created him, but instead engages in actions contradicting this natural order. The Catholic stance on this has been criticized over the years and labeled as too rigid and anachronistic but it remains what it is – we have no right to disrupt the natural order of things. The speaker warned against the technological advancement and points out the idol worship of smartphones which have invaded our humanity. He also mentioned the sin seen in the abuse of the natural environment, over which we were made trustees and custodians.
SOLUTIONS TO COMBAT THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD
The speaker mentioned the following solutions:
- get a prayer schedule
- pray with purity of intention
- do well to keep chaste
- practice always custodia occulurum (custody of eyes)
- practice modesty
- purify the social climate
- stop moral pervasiveness
- engage in continuous self-mastery / discover weak points
- do examination of conscience and set targets for next day
- mortification to prune the senses and keep the sense appetite in check
- renunciation of will in obedience which St Alphonso Liguori calls martydom
- studying of Scripture/ holy books, saint books
- detachment by seeking God first which prompts God to give us all we need
So, here I was soaking it all in, when it dawned on me that the spirit of the world was not far from me on this spiritual journey. I had to step up! I had to make a prayer schedule and soak myself in God’s word in these ever harassing times where concupiscence abounds. I take solace in the words in Romans 5:20 – “but where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” and urge us all to be conscious of this spirit of the world whose aim is to prevent the restoration of man’s harmony and fellowship with God and tap into God’s grace which is available for all who believe.
May the Almighty Father fill us with his Spirit and equip us to stand firm and overcome the spirit of the world in all its manifestations. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen