“Our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph 6:12).
It is hard to identify the underlying forces in a culture or within large, complex social systems because they are actually ideas. The clash of basic ideas over the direction a society will take is what politics is about. When politics fails, conflicts can become wars. It is said that Charles de Gaulle, the great French leader, saw World War II as a struggle between enormous “angels” representing liberty and national socialism (Nazism).
The author of the Letter to the Ephesians describes a decisive spiritual battle going on between God and Evil being played out in the persecution of the young church within a corrupt Greco-Roman culture intent on expanding and absorbing the Mediterranean world militarily and culturally. The ancient world was in transition, one civilization showing signs of collapse as new ideas appeared and took hold, among them the revolutionary spirit of the Gospel with its message of freedom and joy won for all people by Jesus Christ, a victim of Roman crucifixion who rose from the dead to proclaim victory over the world.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Pharisees that he is not afraid of King Herod (“that fox”) because nothing will keep him from fulfilling his mission to go to Jerusalem to die like all the other prophets before him. Jesus then issues a final warning to the city: “How many times I yearned to gather your children together as hen gathers her brood under wings, but you were unwilling” (Luke 13:34). The powers of darkness will fill the vacuum of their refusal to grasp God’s invitation to find peace. But he will overcome the darkness. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
We also live in decisive times. Faith seeks to understand the powerful ideas that drive our personal and communal lives — media saturation promoting consumption, mindless entertainment, exaggerated individualism, political and social polarization, xenophobia, racial paranoia, the use of force to solve all our problems. The Gospel invites us to enter the same revolution of mind and heart that propelled the early church to challenge the dominant culture and offer alternatives to its values. One thing is sure: Who we become will be determined by which angel we listen to and follow.
In Luke 18:8, Jesus confronts us with the same challenge he set before the city of Jerusalem. “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” We must be ready to give an answer to that question, then be ready to live it with courage and commitment, as though our lives depended on it.