His Rod and His Staff They Comfort Me
He doesn’t want us to fall into sin from the weakness of our flesh and be led astray by the Deceiver of humanity.
Yes, there is an Enemy of our souls who wants to destroy us and if it were possible to snatch us away from the Hands of Our Heavenly Father and take us down with him. Our Good Father calls on us to listen to His voice and obey His commands so that He may us lead safely through this earthly valley of the shadow of death into His Heavenly Kingdom of light.
Cast all your worries upon (the Lord) because He cares for you.
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. ( 1st Peter 5: 7-9)
My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of My Hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s Hand.
The Father and I are one. ( John 10: 27-30)
In the Spring of 2006, I began to realize through the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit on my conscience that I had developed a bad habit. It had happened gradually without my awareness at first. I was enjoying an alcoholic drink (usually a glass of wine) daily. As the afternoon progressed I found myself thinking and looking forward to having this pleasurable beverage in the early evening. I liked the taste and the relaxation it produced in mind and body after a “long day.” Research seems to indicate that a glass of red wine daily is beneficial to our health. That’s fine in general. But in my case, I felt more and more convicted in my spirit by the gentle whispers of the Holy Spirit that my attitude of looking forward to having that one glass was no longer “detached” – no longer neutral – meaning, that it didn’t matter whether I had it or didn’t have it. I was aware that I had a “desire” and this “desire” was gaining a hold on me. Where did this desire come from? Where did the recurrent daily thought of wanting to have this glass of wine originate from? I learned later that it was temptation from the Devil. The Evil One had found a crack in which to slip in to attempt to draw me into his power. No doubt he desired to entice me into addiction in order to destroy me. He had been successful to do this to my own sister. I had opened this crack by not practicing diligently the virtue of temperance. I had indulged those early desires and did not resist them through the practice of self –denial or mortification and so a “habit” had formed. The Enemy of our souls saw this opportunity and intensified his attack with strong temptations. My flesh, now being pummeled by the Tempter, and my spirit, which was being wooed by the Holy Spirit, were warring.
On June 21rd, 2006 I poured a glass of red wine and went upstairs to my bedroom to relax, pray and read a book for an hour before dinner. It was about 6 o’clock in the evening. I set the glass down on the bedside table not yet having taken a sip. I lifted my heart to Jesus and began to pray silently and offer my love to Him. After some time in adoring Jesus in this way, I was stunned when in the midst of my praise, I heard clearly a strong and commanding Voice say to me interiorly, “Stop drinking!”
Is that You, Lord saying this to me? I asked. No, it is not really You, I said to myself, and I tried to dismiss the “Word” that had been spoken to me. My flesh didn’t want to hear that! I tried to ignore the “Command”, and so I opened my book to the page where I had last left off reading. I had been reading a book called, “The Miracle of the Illumination of all Consciences” by Thomas W. Petrisko. I had finished reading chapter 13 and so I opened to page 115, and began reading Chapter 14 so as to take my mind off that “Order” that I had just heard.
The Chapter began with a verse of Scripture:
“Your commandment we have not heeded or observed, nor have we done as You ordered as for our good. Therefore, all You have brought upon us, all You have done for us, You have done by a proper judgment.” ( Daniel 3:30-31).
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read those verses! I knew the Lord was speaking to me! Still, I hesitated to heed and obey Him immediately. He was calling me in His love and mercy to change my ways for my own good. Oh how my flesh was so stubborn. How I could be so rebellious to the One who loves me so tenderly and infinitely? – the Father who cares for the total well-being of His little child, the Good Shepherd who desires to safeguard His little lamb from the lion who would devour her, and the Holy Spirit who gently yet persistently shines his Light into the dark recesses of His little one’s conscience to guide her “into all Truth” – the truth about her own self and the evil schemes of the Enemy who hates her and wants to destroy her because she is a child of God.
So I continued reading chapter 14 in the book. This chapter contained the testimony of Dr. Frank Novasack, Jr.
The doctor had a dream on December 31, 1999 which was recorded in chapter 14. Here is what he wrote and what I read immediately after hearing the Lord speak to me, commanding me to “Stop drinking” which I wanted to rationalize to myself that I did not hear, and therefore, I would not have to obey.
“In my dream I felt as though I was close to death and a coming judgment and I sensed I was traveling to the place of judgment. There were others with me …I sensed I was going to Purgatory or to Hell and I feared that it was possibly Hell. I found myself getting on an elevator….The elevator descended many levels and suddenly I realized that I was possibly getting close to Hell. I became very frightened about where I was going…Finally I arrived in this big underground conference auditorium that had a large audience of people in it…On a stage like platform, like a judge’s bench…as I watched I realized that it appeared that a judgment of some kind was occurring, and that there was a great level of suffering being experienced by the people in the audience. I noticed the people were suffering mentally upon the realization of the sins they had committed, more than anything else. I also understood that they were being shown how they had offended God and how this hurt God.
I then noticed a young lady…being lectured to about her sin. Once again, I felt a keen, almost painful awareness of sin and mental grief which outweighed any physical suffering over the offense toward God. The speaker addressed this lady about her alcoholism and how it had led her into further sin. But she was in denial and yelled back to the speaker that it wasn’t that bad and that she didn’t feel like she’s done anything wrong. “I didn’t do anything so bad….I didn’t do anything so bad,” I heard her say…
As the “judgment” continued, I continued to watch. I eventually woke up in a panic quite shocked by the dream. I was shaken for days after this and still remember it very clearly. From it all, I was left with a deep understanding of how our smallest sins offend God and how intense the psychological and emotional component of our “judgment” will perhaps be. I also felt I was made aware of how this all is related to the “act of contrition” that we say during confession.
When I finished reading the account of the doctor’s dream, I jumped from my bed, carried the un-drunk glass of wine downstairs to the kitchen and poured it into the sink thanking the Lord for His love and care for me to show me the truth of my weaknesses and carelessness which the Enemy would use to my destruction, if I did not heed the Lord’s merciful rebuke.
The LORD is my shepherd.
….to safe waters You lead me;
…You guide me along the right path for the sake of Your name
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for You are at my side;
Your rod and staff give me courage…
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. ( Psalm 23).
From that very day, I abstained from all wine and alcoholic drink for many months in obedient love and gratitude to my Savior for rescuing me from the snares of the Devil. I fervently desired to heed Jesus’ warning and with His grace to break any attachment that had developed by my negligence of the virtue of temperance and which had resulted in this bad habit. The Enemy had hoped by seizing upon this bad habit he would have a strong foothold to tempt me still further and ultimately entrap me in the tight bonds of addiction as he does to so many of his unwary prey.
But we know this truth, for those who turn to the Lord and obey Him:
You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them , for the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1st John 4:4)
Five years passed. As of this writing I am once again mortifying my passions out of grateful love to my Savior. We can so easily slip back if we are careless in our pursuit of holiness. The Holy Spirit began to prick my conscience again. He was warning me that I was letting my guard down and being careless by once more making a habitual practice of indulgence in an evening drink. How easily and willingly we try to excuse or delude ourselves that “all is just fine”…. The echo of the words which the woman in the doctor’s extraordinary dream came to my mind…. “I didn’t do anything so bad.” I could hear the Spirit of Truth’s admonitions to me within my spirit, “don’t give the Enemy any room to maneuver”.
As the Holy Spirit was continuing to gently yet insistently counsel me in the necessity and profit of denying the urges of the flesh, mortifying the passions, and practicing the virtue of self-denial….. last week following the Mass I attended a devotion to St Rita that the church offered to the parishioners. The devotional program was led by an elderly lady. The relics of St Rita were placed on the communion rail and we were invited to venerate them and pray to our Lord for our needs with the intercession of St Rita. Then, each one waited in turn to approach the elderly lady to be anointed with holy oil and receive a blessing invoking Our Lord through St Rita. I was last in the line. Everyone had left and I approached the elderly lady for the blessing. I am new to this church and the woman knew nothing about me or my life. I stood before her and she anointed me with oil while I asked her to pray for me and my family. And then she looked deeply at me and said, “the Scriptures say, some kinds come out only by prayer and fasting.”
She was referring to the verse in the Gospel of Mark relating to the disciples’ question to Jesus as to why they were unable to cast out a particular evil spirit.
He told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” ( Mark 9:29)
And then she added, “Perhaps the Lord is asking you to give up something specific as a sacrifice? You don’t have to tell me what it is.”
I was utterly astonished and I knew that this was a Word from Jesus being spoken to me through this pious lady. She knew nothing in and of herself of my present inner struggle against the Tempter and Destroyer of souls. Yet, the Lord used her as His instrument to speak this specific Word of exhortation to me against intemperance and to invite me to practice self-denial for love of Him. My loving Heavenly Father desired to protect me from the harm the Enemy was once again plotting against me.
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left (Jesus) until an opportune time.
I “confessed” to the lady right there in the church everything about the “warfare” between my flesh, the devil and my spirit and told her that I was clearly hearing Our Lord speaking through her to me. I said I would obey Jesus immediately and cooperate with His grace. The next day, our Blessed Mother gave me to understand that I should abstain from all alcoholic drink for a month and bring this offering to Our Lord on the great feast day of Our Lady of Fatima on October 13. So I am now in this period of self-denial and mortification believing for special graces at the day of the great feast of the Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. How wonderful is our Lord who guards His children and delivers us from evil, and patiently and lovingly guiding us through this valley of the shadow of death into His glorious Light.
“His rod and his staff they comfort me!”
No one can take them out of My Hand.