PLEASE NOTE: As the Burial Mass is not celebrated on Sunday, the day of our Lord's Resurrection, All Souls Day will be observed this year on Monday, November 3rd. Please remember to keep all of the Souls in Purgatory in your prayers. If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend Mass where you live, make every effort to do so on behalf of the Holy Souls.
In getting any job done -- whether it be the morning's housework, the building of a giant sky-scraper, the military invasion of a continent, or the salvation of souls -- it is necessary to define our objectives, to inventory the resources at hand, and to determine the obstacles which may stand between ourselves and the objective. And meeting our objectives must be directed toward meeting an ultimate goal.
Our ultimate goal in life, of course, is the salvation of our immortal souls. Nothing else is of any importance if we fail to meet that goal. The Catechism tells us that we have been created to demonstrate God's glory, and to be happy with Him in heaven. If we lose sight of that reality, we stand a chance of drifting away from God and losing everything that matters.
We can enjoy the good things of God's creation, as long as we understand that they are the means to our goal of salvation. But we must never let the material things of this world become so important that they disturb our aim at the goal of salvation. We cannot allow these "means" to become "ends" in themselves.
It is possible to examine a goal and to be mistaken about the obstacles in our path, or to be mistaken about the resources available to overcome the obstacles. Faithful Catholics tend to think of the obstacles to salvation in terms of the material evils we see today in Church and society; things like heresy, or abortion, or pornography, or persecution, or war. Likewise, we tend to think of our resources in material terms; like political action, or distributing leaflets, or boycotting the pornographers and the heretics.
But in today's epistle, Saint Paul tells us that these material problems and material solutions are always secondary. "Our battle," he says, "is not against human forces, but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of the world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above."1 Of course, Saint Paul is not minimizing the evils of the day, any more than he underestimated the evils of his own time. Those evils are very real. It is simply to say that we must not "treat the symptoms, while ignoring the disease" -- we must not spend so much time worrying about the things of this world that we fail to recognize the eternal trap into which the Devil hopes we will fall -- and into which we will fall if we do not make use of the proper means to avoid it. The Devil is real, and must be reckoned with as real, even if we see only the material evils he helps to bring about.
The Apostle tells us that our primary defenses must be spiritual and not material. He describes our resources in military terms, but each one of these things is spiritual: The armor of God is a belt of truth, a breastplate of justice, zeal for the Gospel and a shield of faith. The word of God will be our helmet and our sword.
Truth. Justice. Faith. God's holy word. No doubt, Paul would also include the charity, about which he speaks so beautifully in his epistle to the Corinthians.2 And to these must be added the forgiveness called for in today's Gospel. The parable today is in response to Saint Peter's question: "How often must I forgive my brother?"3 The reality of things is that while we are responsible for our own salvation, we must work out that salvation in human society -- in the company of men and women who are every bit as frail as we are. The neighbor who offends us is not the enemy; not even when he does things that are positively wrong. "We are," so to speak, "all in this together." The brother or the neighbor who offends us must be seen as someone, just like ourselves, whom the Devil is trying to trap. He must be seen as a potential ally, rather than as an enemy in the struggle.
God has given us many physical gifts that can be put to good and wholesome use. But these will be effective in the long run, only if they conform with the spiritual resources provided by Almighty God.
In short, we need to realize that the good that we do and the evil we try to prevent must be understood in terms of an underlying spiritual reality -- for the things of this world, both the bad and the good, will one day pass away. But truth, justice, faith, charity, forgiveness, and God's holy word will never pass away. If we make these things our own here on earth, we can surely look forward to enjoying their fulfillment in the glory of God and in our happiness with Him in heaven.
Truth, Justice, Faith, Charity, Forgiveness, and God's Holy Word.