These are uneasy times. The political and social tension in our country seems to be reaching new heights. Riots and violence in the streets are becoming more common. Among many Americans, predominantly young, there is at least an indifference to religion if not an outright hostility. Churches are being vandalized with greater frequency. Many are deeply concerned for the country and for the Church.
At such times, it is important to trust ever more deeply in God’s providential care. Christ’s promise that the ‘gates of Hell will not prevail’ against his Church comes to mind [cf. Mt 16:18]. Now while it is true that Hell shall not overcome Christ’s Church, I think people often misconstrue this passage [cf. Catechism 552].
Gates do not attack; they defend. The Church is on the offensive.
‘Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”’ [Catechism 407]. Through his Passion, Christ conquered Satan for the salvation of souls. While Hell still exists, and Satan still fights, his power over this world has been broken. Immediately after his death, Our Lord freed the souls of ‘the just who had gone before him’ [cf. Catechism 633]. Since that moment, Jesus continues to steal souls from Satan, and Satan of his own accord is powerless to stop him.
Think of the soul of a person steeped in sin. By his free choice, he belongs to Satan. However, if he turns to Christ – through baptism, confession, or perfect contrition – Satan’s gates cannot keep grace from entering that soul. Jesus is the strong man that binds Satan and plunders his house [cf. Mt 12:29].
What does this reflection have to do with our current societal unrest?
As Catholics, we must never forget that our ultimate purpose in life is to make it to heaven and help as many people as possible get there. Society may struggle, the Church may struggle, but the Church will stand. However, the goal of the Church is not merely to survive but to evangelize boldly and joyfully in every situation.
The tremendous amount of unrest in society is an opportunity. In such circumstances, superficiality holds less sway. People who are suffering often reexamine their assumptions. They begin to recognize something is wrong and to discover that secular clichés neither answer the fundamental questions of life’s meaning nor absolve them from their sins.
Therefore, let us take the fight to the enemy – Satan. The secular crowd or even those actively working against the Church are our brothers and sisters, whom we must regain for the Lord. We must resist evils and injustices, but we most love the perpetrators. Introduce them to Christ.
While there are countless ways to bring Christ to people, one way seems particularly appropriate for our current situation: person-to-person contact. People, inundated by mass media and social media, have become both isolated and lonely. When we simply take the time to listen to their concerns and dreams, we are doing a great act of kindness. Only then have we earned the right for them to listen to us. Eventually, we will have the opportunity to give an explanation of our hope [cf. 1 Peter 3:15]. Let us collaborate with Our Lord in stealing back one soul at a time.
God has created and called us to live and to evangelize in this particular moment in history. Take heart, ‘the gates of hell will not prevail,’ so let us storm the gates!
Fr. John Bullock, LC
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