Well I won't back down, no I won't back down; you can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down. No, I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around and I'll keep this world from dragging me down, I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down!
Great lyrics today from the amazing Tom Petty.
Anyone else feel like I do this week; it sure seems that events over the past few weeks and months, coupled with what promises to be one of the nastier politcal seasons in our nation's history have collided to back us down, to push us around. And yes, I'm talking about individually and collectively as people of faith.
Week after week, almost day after day, we awake or retire for the evening with noise ringing in our ears of another terrorist attack or unspeakable violence in our streets. Dozens if not hundreds of innocents lose their lives on a day they never expected would be their last. Just this past week, since we last gathered to worship together on the Lord's Day, an elderly Catholic Priest, at the altar where he had celebrated Mass, was brutually murdered by a radical hate-filled terrorists who then rejoiced over his brutally beheaded body. Despite his advanced age, I doubt Father Hamel went to that altar expecting that day to be his last; the act of blessing, breaking and giving the Body of Christ followed by the brutality visited upon his own body in such a brutal murder.
Jesus tells us in today's Gospel, "you fool, this night your life will be demanded of you". In the context of the lesson that Jesus was teaching and in the broader of context of all our lives, we can never know when our earthly pilgrimmage will end. Jesus calls us to always be prepared. Too many of us, like the rich fool in today's Gospel, we spend way too much time accumulating more and more and more. Now riches and wealth, of their own accord, may not be condemnable, but the insatiable appetitte for them indeed may be. Jesus continues, "thus it will be for all who store treasures for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God". And St. Paul even reminds us to think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For us gathered here in worship, for all of us who shudder at the violence and terrorism that dominates our lives, the political vitriol, the outright disrespect of human life, it's high time we stand our ground. How are we, Christians living in a world where Christianity is under attack from all sides, going to stand our ground and not back down?
It is more than cliche brothers and sisters but it starts with giving ourselves over completely to the only one who can save us from the evil of this world, Jesus the Christ! We must all pray more, love more, speak up more, defend our Church more, pray and support our clergy, especially our Priests more and we all must replace the clutter in our lives with a humble and contrite heart. We must never respond to the evil that surrounds us with bitterness or hate, but we are not called to be weak either. A Christian, who follows Jesus totally, is not weak; no, the Christian is strong. And if we, the Christians of this world, would truly come together and be a prayerful force for good in this world, we will defeat terrorism, we will overcome violence, murder and racism of all kinds. Let me mention World Youth Day in Poland, just finishing as we speak. Over 2 million youth and other pilgrims from every continent traveled, despite the threats of terrorism, to witness thier faith and worship God together with Pope Francis right there with them. This is hopeful, this is defeating evil, this is being strong. These pilgrims were not pushed around. And the media was not going to report on this except in passing. Imagine, despite all the turmoil in this world, 2 million youth and others gathered in one place to pray and promote peace!
If we believe we can just handle things by ourselves, by accumulating more of this worlds stuff as opposed to more of Jesus in our lives, by focuses our time and energy on everything but God, this is vanity of vanities. No, we can do nothing apart from Jesus and we can do more when we pray and serve and love together. This is how we stop this world from dragging us down.
Begin where you are planted. Right here, in our own parish, in this Church, get more involved. We have a call out right now for more PSR teachers, adult volunteers needed to teach, to hand on our faith, to our young people. We have a call out right now for more servers at our altar, adults or children, we need more volunteers to assist at the table of the Lord. We have a call out right now for adults in our parish to take advantage of 3 different Bible study opportunities. We have a call out right now for more adorers for our 1st Friday Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and to be present, with the Eucharistic Lord, at Benediction, now held at 7 PM at both St. Jane's and St. Michael's. And the Church always has a call out for volunteers to feed the hungry, visit the lonely, be a light to someone being overcome and overwhelmed by darkness. Yes, these things and so much more, will turn a violent and hate filled world around. And one last reminder about the lesson Jesus was teaching today and the lesson learned so tragically by so many innocents in San Bernardino, Orlando, Paris, Munich, Nice and at the altar in Normandy. Are we prepared.? If today our life was demanded of us, are we prepared? If today we hear his voice will we harden not our hearts? Dear brothers and sisters, there is no greater force for good, who can help us in being prepared, in this life and the eternal life to come, than Holy Mother Church, in her mission, in her service and in her Sacraments, most especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We must persevere together, we must not back down, we must not be pushed around, stand us up even at the gates of hell, still, we will not back down.
Oh Lord, prosper the work of hands, prosper the work of our hands. Amen.