The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Isaiah 53:10-11 + Hebrews 4:14-16 + Mark 10:35-45
October 17, 2021
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews, from which Sunday’s Second Reading is taken, reflects upon the meaning that suffering gains through Jesus’ Cross. Here one of the best-known definitions of “courage” is illustrated: “not the absence of fear, but fear that has been prayed over.”
In other words, courage means being willing to bring God into a decision about whether to fight or flee from conflict. Once God shows you whether a conflict demands your involvement, the stakes are raised. Because to abandon a conflict in which God has staked a claim is to abandon God Himself.
But does God really care about taking sides? Isn’t it better just to leave people alone? Maybe all of us, instead of holding fast to what the Church teaches, should just let everyone do what they want. Are we wrong to insist that non-Catholics, just as much as Catholics, are held by God to certain teachings or beliefs? Or should we accept the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling defending abortion? In that case of Planned Parenthood vs. the pro-life governor of Pennsylvania, the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court made the following declaration: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In the face of this sort of claim, you—as a Catholic—have four paths to consider taking. Two of these are against conflict, while the other two accept conflict.
The first path that leads away from conflict is the path of resignation. This is the path of least resistance; the path of joining in with the culture that surrounds us. Countless Catholics walk this path today: many are politicians; many are members of the media; some are ordinary, middle-class citizens; some are even clergy. They walk this liberal path away from conflict saying, “Let’s have everyone create his own morality. It’s not our place to impose our morality on others.” But this is not our Catholic Faith.
However, there’s another path that also leads away from conflict. This is the path that leads into a bunker. This conservative path away from conflict says, “Modern culture today is going to ‘you know where’ in a hand basket.” So these people, of whom many are Catholic, decide to close in on themselves, and close above them the door to their bunker. Inside, they carry on, living the Faith as they’ve been given it, but not passing it on to anyone except their own children, ignoring the mandate of Holy Mother Church to be a missionary people. The path into a bunker is not our Catholic Faith.
Those are the two paths that lead away from conflict. But in the opposite direction, there are two paths that accept conflict. Each demands its own type of courage.
The first path that accepts conflict is the path of aggression. This is the path of greatest resistance. Only those who enjoy conflict follow this path. The goal of this path is dominance. Its operating theory is that life is a “zero-sum game”: it says, “I can’t win, unless you lose.” It’s like the card game “War”, and is just as interesting. The type of courage needed to walk this path is the courage of the child’s game “King of the Hill.” But this is not our Catholic Faith.
The second path that accepts conflict is the path that demands the Christian virtue of courage. This form of courage is the courage of Christ the King, who did not dominate as the king of the hill of Calvary, but sacrificed his life there so that others could join Him: not just us, but all mankind, gathered there with Mary and the Beloved Disciple in worship of the King who died for us. This is our Catholic Faith.
We fight—by defending the Truth about the dignity of human life—not in order to defeat others, but in order to bring them to see and live the Truth. We do this because seeing and living the Truth sets people free, enriching the life of every person and our entire culture: transforming it as a leaven from within, and leading those who love this Truth into the life of God.