“I want to be holy—can you teach me how?” What would your response be to that question? The Church’s answer has always been: “Do your duty.” More specifically: “Do the duties of your state in life, to the best of your ability, with great love.” For example, if you’re married, love your spouse and children. If you’re a religious, keep the vows, live the charism of your founder, do the work of your community. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for great drama and heroism. But if you follow the Church’s directives for holiness, you’ll attract the attention of Satan, for you will have become a threat.
For the past four weeks, we’ve discussed spiritual warfare, in particular, Satan’s strategies (1, 2, 3) and God’s holy weapons (4). This week we’ll look at Jehu, King of Israel, as a role model for exercising proper authority, and especially, the power of duty. As we face our daily duties, which for most of us won’t be life-and-death struggles, we can learn from Jehu the power that comes from living the truth that we’ve been called by God to do the work entrusted to us. So many of us awaken daily, feeling defeated even before the day’s challenges have begun. Jehu shows us that’s not what God wants for us.
Jehu isn’t a superhero who makes meeting the demands of authority and duty look easy. When God’s prophet anointed him King of Israel, he denied to his friends what had happened: “You know they sort and how they babble.” (2 Kings 9:11) When pressed, he admitted that he had been anointed King, and that God had missioned him to exact divine retribution against the idolaters Ahab, Jezebel and their followers. When Jehu finally acknowledged God’s intervention, he got to work.
Here’s Jehu’s lesson for us: We hesitate at times to acknowledge God’s call, anointing and mission. We assume that divine intervention is for someone else. But the very fact that we’re alive shows that God has work for us. The fact of our baptism is proof of our mission to teach all that Jesus has taught and to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28: 18-20) And God will demand of us an accounting of our mission, our fidelity and our fruitfulness. (Matthew 25)
When Jezebel learned that Jehu was coming to bring her God’s justice, she didn’t flee, and she didn’t gather an army. Instead, “she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window.”(2 Kings 9:30) Jezebel, the renowned seducer, under stress, did what she did best—she readied herself for seduction. Jezebel here represents all the beguilements, illusions and excuses that Satan puts in our path to distract, diminish and destroy us. If he cannot keeps us off the path of duty entirely (as Jehu was tempted when he was first anointed King), Satan will try to cause us to stumble even as we try to do our duty. In the first instance, he tries to make us forget who we are; in the second instance, he tries to make us forget whose we are. As Christians, who we are is adopted children of God; whose we are is anointed disciples sustained by the victorious Christ. In a time of crisis, Jezebel knew her strength, and prepared to play the role of seducer. Jehu, on the other hand, knew his weakness, and avoided her seduction by calling upon God-given allies to help him throw down Jezebel. (2 Kings 9: 30-37)
Jehu’s lesson for us is clear. While no one can do our duty for us, we endanger ourselves unnecessarily if we believe that we are alone, or if we believe that we must rely on our own strength. We have our fellow disciples to assist us, we have the Communion of Saints to intercede for us, and we have the graces of the Church’s sacraments and sacramentals to sustain and protect us. God will not leave us helpless when He calls upon us to do His will. We are foolish and disobedient if we live our discipleship as if we were abandoned orphans without help or hope.
As Christians, we have the God-given authority and the Spirit-filled means to do our duty, to do what is right, to live our vocations—especially to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is the universal vocation. If we admit our calling, our need and our graces in this life, then in the next we will hear from our King the words we were made to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)
When I write next, I will consider a third and most powerful weapon in the divine arsenal for waging war against Satan. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.