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Sun Tzu of China and Paul of Tarsus -- The Art of War

The last time I heard about Sun Tzu and his book “The Art of War” was from a presentation given by my brilliant classmate in Philosophy (Sabino Vengco, now a Monsignor and prominent philosophy and theology teacher in universities and seminaries in the Philippines) in one of our classes more than 55 years ago. Why he chose that topic for a Metaphysics class baffled me even at that time since I thought it was too far removed from the Philosophy of Being as it was about military strategy.

That was until recently, when each homeroom class in our high school, and faculty and staff were pitted against one another in a contest of who would bring in the most number of canned goods and money for this year’s Thanksgiving Food Drive for the poor. The contest went on a high pitch and everybody was eager to win. (This reminded me of the annual Christmas Package Drive of Ateneo Grade School students, a big competition, which my class often won.)

One teacher inadvertently sent his plan to the wrong group, thus exposing his strategy, which is based on Sun Tzu’s strategy of deception, thus: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” was adopted as the bible of many generals and military strategists since 5 BC when he wrote the book and it must have brought them many victories against their enemies. I'm sure it is also used in business to win the competition.

St. Paul of Tarsus, after his conversion, talked about warfare, spiritual warfare to be precise. The enemy is not armies of soldiers, but principalities and powers led by Satan, the great deceiver, the father of lies.

Paul wrote about the evil powers of darkness against which we struggle. And it is in the darkness that we are easily attacked and deceived. “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Eph 6:12)

Therefore, Paul gave a warning : “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his de­vices.” (2 Cor 2:11). St. Peter made the same warning: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

St. Paul talks about his life as a race, a fight, at the end of which he could say: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” (2 Tim 4:7-8)

Our life on this earth is a struggle, a fight. And we fight to win. Like St. Paul and the saints, who put up a gallant fight till the end, we can win our spiritual warfare against the Deceiver by standing firm with the Truth, the Word of God, Our Lord Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And we come to the Father only through Him. (John 14:6)#

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