Sunday, August 18, 2013

Spiritual Warfare

“...let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” (Heb 12:1-2)

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

There is so much happening in the world that troubles me.  The violence in Egypt against Christians, immigrants dying seeking a better life, the total disregard for traditional Christian family values and the re-definition of what a family and marriage actually is, the rampant secularism that seeks to eliminate God from the public square as if the Almighty were a nuisance...I could go on and on with this list.  These things that are taking place are not so different from what Jesus encountered in his time.  There was violence in the Middle East back then too, and the Romans lived and promoted a hedonistic lifestyle much like what we are seeing today.  This is why Jesus seeks to set the world on fire because the love of God transforms, consumes, and eradicates all that may alienate us from his Divine Love.  Of course, embracing this love and embracing the Kingdom of God involves ridding ourselves of sin and of all those pleasures we seek with disregard for how it affects others.  The words from the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading are very direct: “let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”  Sin clings to us a like a bad odor.  It infiltrates every part of our life and of our being until we feel like we no longer deserve and no longer can receive God’s forgiveness.  Yet he forgives us anyways and calls us to persevere through the journey of life with eyes fixed on him.

Living our Christianity to the fullest will also be a cause of division among families as Jesus says at the end of the gospel.  So many are rejected, even among family members, for how they practice their faith.  I’ve spoken about this before:  how we sometimes put adjectives in front of the word “Catholic” such as “devout Catholic” or “conservative Catholic” or my favorite “fanatical Catholic.”  Truth is the world sees people that faithfully go to Mass every day, say their rosaries, help the poor, and participate in the ministry of the Church as fanatical Catholics when really they’re just Catholic.  Even after 11 years of priesthood, I still am amused at how some people react to seeing a young man (humor me, please) walking around a shopping center wearing a Roman collar.  I am a sign of contradiction, a sign of division.  Yet Christ calls all of us to be a sign of division and to stand up for what we believe in.

I preached about this on Thursday on the Solemnity of the Assumption but wanted to expand on it a bit more this Sunday morning.  We are living in a time of spiritual warfare, if you will, where we have to take a stand.  We are surrounded by so much amorality that assaults our children, but we cannot be passive.  We must fight back.  Pope Francis implored the young people in Rio three weeks ago to be protagonists of history and to not get stuck in the back of the line and let history be written without Christian input:

Please, don’t leave it to others to be the protagonists of change. You are the ones who hold the future! You … Through you the future is fulfilled in the world. I ask you also to be protagonists of this transformation. Continue to overcome apathy, offering a Christian response to the social and political anxieties, which are arising in various parts of the world. I ask you to be builders of the world, to work for a better world. Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did. (Prayer Vigil with Young People, July 27, 2013)

This task isn’t exclusively for the young as this week I’ve seen scores of grandparents come into our offices wanting their grandchildren to receive the sacraments in our religious education program because their children (my generation) have grown indifferent or apathetic towards God and haven’t passed it on to their children.  We MUST give a spiritual response to the ills of the world and also recognize that this is a spiritual war.  In a war, we must be armed which is why on Mary’s feast on Thursday I pulled out my rosary.  Our Blessed Mother walks with us during this journey as we go forth to set the world on fire with her beloved Son.  My friends, make no mistake about it, we will be attacked by forces in this world and outside of this world.  The devil exists and the Holy Father called him out by name almost immediately when elected Pope.  I see good people trying to lead good Christian lives struggling with sin and all sorts of issues especially family issues.  I’ve seen husband and wives divided because one wants to go to church and the other doesn’t.  I’ve seen young people come to Mass by themselves because their parents won’t bring them.  So the prophecy of our Lord has been fulfilled.  Jesus does indeed come to establish division, but the question remains: on which side of the division do you stand?  Will you lead the charge against the evils of this world or will you get swept up in the current that allows you to do whatever makes you happy?  Only one side leads to eternal life.  Choose wisely.