There is a grim and even difficult message in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Jesus speaks about some recent tragedies of which the people were well aware. It seems that some Galileans had protested the Roman’s building an aqueduct. Pilate had his soldiers mix in with the Jews during a synagogue service and then attack the protesters "mingling their blood with their sacrifice." Another all to common but sad experience is related regarding a tower that was being constructed. It caved in killing a number of the workers. Certainly, the Lord could have included the many of the tragedies we hear of every week: natural tragedies like earthquakes and fires, man made tragedies like famine and war, horrible tragedies of our society, like children killing children, the internet used to hurt people, particularly children, the devastation of drugs, etc.
When Jesus spoke about the events of His day, He said that in all these situations the people who died were not being punished by God. They, like all of us, suffered from the effects of evil and death in the world. What happened was horrible. Death is horrible. And death always comes much sooner than it is expected. Our time is limited. We must make the best use of it we can. The reading goes on to present the parable of the fig tree which is going to be cut down if it doesn't produce fruit. In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "If you think you are standing, watch out lest you fall down."
These are not a pleasant messages. We come to Church seeking union with God, praying for our needs. We hope to leave with the good feelings. All of us like a warm fuzzy feeling inside ourselves. But religion is a lot more than warm fuzzies. Religion is being tied to a God who said "Follow me," and then was crucified. Nothing warm and fuzzy about that. This Sunday we are warned , "If you think you are standing, watch out lest you fall down." There is nothing warm or fuzzy about that, but there is a deep reality being invoked.
Jesus Christ was not only Son of God and Messiah, He was also a prophet. And as a true prophet He did not evade the message that people needed to hear. He loved us too much to keep the truth from us, even if it is painful. And the truth is simple: we must fight evil and do good, repent and bear fruit as the gospel says, or we will suffer eternal death.
There is a war enjoined. It is the war of God's kingdom against the forces of evil. This is not just an apocalyptical battle of St. Michael against the devil, it is a real life battle right here and right now of God's people against the devil under the guise of materialism and hedonism. The ancient Christians believed that every Mass was another battle in the war, another victory for the Kingdom of God. Martyrs were never seen as victims, instead they were victors defeating evil with its own instruments of hatred. We are all engaged in this war.
The battle field is our homes where we have to put up a determined fight to keep our lifestyles from falling into unchristian behavior. If we don’t put up the battle for Christian charity, horrible things can happen. For example, husbands and wives share an intimate knowledge of each other. A good husband or wife shares his or her inner feelings, fears and joys with his or her spouse. But if the marriage is not founded on and centered in God’s love, then the husband and wife can violate intimacy and use this knowledge to hurt each other. Then evil wins out. In the same way, if children don’t respect their parents with the respect that reflects Fourth Commandment, they can hurt their parents by talking back, being nasty, by doing those things that they know upset their parents. When parents put up with this as well as a lot worse, evil wins out. Raising a child is demanding work. It demands protecting them from hurting themselves not just physically but also spiritually.
The battlefield is the environment of our children, where we have to fight to protect them from adopting a materialistic, hedonistic attitude in life. One of the goals of our religious education programs and Catholic schools is to open the children up to the needs of the poor. For example, the children in our religious education program participate in supporting poor children in distant lands. Many of you give Christian charity an active place in your families. When your family is active in charity to poor families, you are exposing your children to the obligation we all have to those who are struggling to get by. The children then realize that success is not in materialism, but in Christianity, and good wins out.
The battlefield is our jobs, where we have to be honest, and true, and faithful, and Christian. Many offices are horrible. Perhaps you have experienced a person destroying another’s reputation to get their job. When this happens evil wins a battle. People often play relationship games with others at work. Marital fidelity appears to be an afterthought in some people’s minds. The person that stands for his or her marriage is winning a victory for good.
Very often the battlefield is our country where we have to fight for morality regardless of the popularity of our stand. This fight might be the one we hear the most about, and we should because it is taking lives, abortion, or it may be the fight that we do not hear enough about, the fight that our country treat everyone justly with special care and protection for the poorest and most needy of our citizens. A country’s greatness is seen in how it treats the least of its citizens.
There are no warm fuzzies for us today. The message is tough but true. We are engaged in a battle. The battle for God's kingdom. When St. Paul says, "If we think we are standing, we have to watch out less we fall." he is reminding us that there is no such creature as an uninvolved Christian. The Lord says that we are either for him or against him. Like tea, we have to be hot or cold, if we are luke warm, He'll spew us out.
Today we ask God to give us the courage to fight for his kingdom.