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Behind enemy lines

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We are in the middle of combat. As was proclaimed in the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, we hear that Jesus went into the desert to be tempted for 40 days. As we did throughout Lent, we follow Jesus’ example of going behind enemy lines. We are in the wilderness struggling, getting disoriented and fighting toward an Easter victory. We are tempted to feel alone, paralyzed and isolated, and our defenses are weakened.


The gut-wrenching fact of the matter is that this battle is not only reserved for fighting during the season of Lent. This is a battle that happens every single day. This is the very battle we hear throughout the Scriptures and in the lives of the saints. This is the spiritual life being lived out in a world of temptation, lies, shame, materialism and doubt — it is the battle of the Christian life.


At the beginning of my undergraduate career at George Mason University in Fairfax, I found myself disconnected from God, wholesome relationships and the man Christ was inviting me to be. In his profound goodness, I encountered radical transformation through GMU’s Catholic campus ministry — the Catholic Patriots. My fight toward intimacy in Christ consisted of frequenting the sacraments, committing to daily Holy Hours, praying the rosary, and the most decisive step in my early faith-journey — joining a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) small group.


My college small group taught me the meaning of community, fellowship and fraternity. I experienced being among a group of men running the same race toward Christ grounded in vulnerability, accountability, virtue, camaraderie and of course, prayer. When I arrived at seminary, aside from building my spiritual life and undergoing intellectual and human formation, I craved this same fraternity — my heart longed for brotherhood as I had experienced it in college. In a desperate plea to God, I begged him to place new brothers in my life to be with in the trenches, to fight alongside toward God’s glory. He answered, sending me some diocesan brothers to meet with every Wednesday morning.


Behind enemy lines, I have brothers to share in my joys and to support me in my struggles. I have brothers who cry out to heaven with me, begging God to give us the grace to become great saints — together. We share the depths of our hearts, we seek each other out and we are blessed with opportunities to reverence the goodness of God present in one another.


The evil one wants us to isolate ourselves, to fight alone and to be a non-combatant. My experiences in small groups have proven that we are not made to fight behind enemy lines alone, that with solid community we too can have communion with Christ. Jesus built the church with the apostles at its foundation. They were commissioned to bring Christ to all nations but revealed to us that they needed each other to build up his church. We, a broken and messy humanity, must depend on one another and hold each other accountable as we continue our pilgrimages toward eternity with God. This is what we fight for.


Jesus died and rose to win for us this boundless love, joy and a freedom in him that remains forever. Who will you fight with? Who are your friends, your neighbors, your fellow parishioners? Simply say a prayer and reach out to some brothers or sisters. We’re all called to be strengthened through struggle; let’s struggle together and allow the love of the risen Christ to overflow in our lives.


Zinjin Iglesia, from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester, is in his second year of pre-theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019