Audience: Primarily, my children and youth in general. Secondarily, this is a story I would tell anyone who struggles with the direction of our current culture. I think it could appeal to anyone needing encouragement as we face so many attacks against our Faith.
Long before this world existed, God existed. In fact, there was never a time that God did not exist. He was and is a Trinity, a family – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was perfect and complete in His Trinitarian life. He did not need anything beyond what He had in his perfect and complete family. He was happy and content in His existence and did not need anything more to fulfill Him.
While God was perfectly content, He was also pure love and, in love, He created. He began with the angels. True love does not command love in return, rather, it wants to be loved out of a desire and longing, so God gave the angels the gift of free will. While the angels knew of God’s infinite love for them some chose to rebel against Him and rejected His love. They were prideful and thought they could be godlike. They thought their way was better than God’s way, so they turned their backs to God out of pride. There was a battle between all of the angels, good versus evil. The fallen angels were led by Satan. The leader of the army that stood on the side of God was St. Michael the Archangel. St. Michael was faithful to his Creator and stood strong in the face of those who spit on him and defended God courageously. As a result of their strength and courage because God was on their side, St. Michael and his army won the battle. The angels who rebelled were cast into Hell where they would suffer for all eternity. The intense suffering they endure comes solely from being eternally separated from God because it is only with God that one can live in love and peace.
After God created the angels, He created the world we know. He created light and dark; planets and stars; air, water and mountains; plants and animals and all of it was good. Finally, he created His most loved creations – man and woman, Adam and Eve. He loved them so much, He created them in His own image and likeness and breathed His own breath into them to give them life. His desire for man was that they live forever in union with Him and fully participate in His perfect and loving Trinitarian life for all eternity. But, like the angels, God gave man free will because He wanted them to choose that union out of their own desire, not because they were forced to do so. His one request was that Adam and Eve not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and they could remain in Paradise with Him for eternity. “The Lord God gave man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Satan, believing he is better than God, wants man to follow him and not God. He came to Adam and Eve to tempt them to turn away from God and disobey Him. He told them that if they ate from the forbidden tree, they too could be godlike. Unable to resist the temptation, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and disobeyed the one command God had given them, destroying their happy existence and full participation in God’s life. This is where man’s struggle with doing the right thing in the face of temptation and adversity began. Through all generations after Adam and Eve, Satan comes to all people in various forms and bodies to convince them to turn away from God and they will have to choose to stand up to him like St. Michael or give into the temptations of the world.
Now, while God was just and had to cast Adam and Eve out of the garden for their sin, He still loved them so immensely that He immediately promised them a way to repair all the damage that was done. The Lord turned to Satan and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Gen 3:15) Here God promises a path to redemption by a human savior. He will deliver us a savior, so that we can be fully reunited with Him. However, it will require our participation in resisting the temptation to turn away from Him and to always stand up to the forces of evil that try to turn us away from Him.
God loved us so much that He did not abandon us after the original sin. He chose to help us on our path by revealing Himself and His plan for us. Throughout all of the generations of human history since our first parents, God has remained present with us as a shining light in the darkness that Satan brings to the world. We see through the generations that those who follow that light and remain faithful to God are rewarded along the way, which encourages them on the path toward their eternal reward with God in heaven. These examples through the generations provide examples for us to follow in how to stand up to Satan and his demons. God is wise in illuminating these heroes for us so we do not despair in our own time.
We have Noah and his family who remained faithful to God in a time when the majority of the world had given way to evil. Noah was rewarded and spared from the devastating flood and God made a new covenant with him. Moses, while living in the Pharaoh’s comfortable palace, could not see his people enslaved any longer and followed God’s instructions to lead them to freedom. One man standing against a mighty pharoah seems impossible, but it was not because God was behind him. As a boy, David offered to face the mighty Philistine, Goliath, for his king and killed him with a sling shot. Although he was young and inexperienced and Goliath was a warrior, David was not afraid to face him. He later went on to become God’s favored king of Israel and write the Psalms in praise of the Lord. At the risk of being killed, Esther went to her husband the king without being summoned and revealed herself as a Jew. She persuaded her husband to end an order to kill all of her people. Esther was a woman who showed strength and conviction to stand up for what is right despite the risks. These are only some of our examples of how holy men and women have modeled St. Michael who stood up to dark forces at the beginning of creation and defeated them because of God’s righteousness. These models are part of God’s revelation to us so that we know what to do when we face our own battles.
Finally, God saw fit to deliver our redeemer to us by way of a human mother. Mary’s “Yes” to God is the cause of our salvation. At the time that Mary conceived Jesus, she was betrothed to Joseph and was a virgin. For her to become pregnant would be a scandal for her family and could mean humiliation, isolation or even stoning for her, but in the face of all of that, she trusted God. “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’…” (Luke 1:38) Joseph, also disturbed by the appearance of scandal, wanted to divorce Mary, though quietly out of love for her. However, when he was told in a dream what was in store, he also said “Yes” to God in the face of the difficulties it might cause. Just as God protected and favored those who did His will, so too were Mary and Joseph protected.
Mary’s “Yes” gave us our Lord and Savior in the form of little baby. As God, He could have chosen to enter into this world in any way. He could have just appeared as a man at a point in time. However, He loved us so much that he wanted to be like us and with us in every way. He entered the world just as we did, helpless and dependent on His parents for everything. His mother loved Him and nurtured Him. She rocked Him when He cried and kissed Him and cuddled Him to sleep. This was our Lord and God completely vulnerable in every way that we were vulnerable when we came into the world. Like us, He grew from a baby into a boy and learned from Joseph how to be a man. He went to the temple and learned about Jewish religion. He celebrated all of the holidays and feasts with His family. But in all his wisdom, God knew this was the most fitting way to come to us. In all of our experiences, good and bad, from birth to death, and in all of our emotions from joy, love and happiness to disappointment, pain, sorrow and agony we can say that our Lord, God and Savior also experienced them. This is a gift to us in that as we face trials, we can be assured and strengthened in knowing that Jesus experienced them too.
In being human, Jesus was something we can relate to in our human experience. Just as our ancestral heroes demonstrated for us how to stand with God in opposition to evil, Jesus taught and demonstrated how to continue to do that as Satan and his demons continued to roam the Earth in search of those who will give in to his temptation. Jesus taught us how to do God’s will in the face of opposition, strong and faithful to Him. Prior to beginning His ministry, Jesus first went into the desert and fasted for 40 days. Knowing what was in store, Satan immediately went to Him to tempt Him. Jesus was hungry and Satan offered him bread. “He said in reply, ‘It is written: One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4) Satan also offered all the kingdoms of the world “At this, Jesus said to him, ‘Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” (Mt. 4:10) This forceful start to a mission assigned by God shows strength and courage.
The Pharisees, concerned for their own power, found many opportunities to criticize Jesus and accuse Him of blasphemy. The Pharisees were influential at the time and their opposition would be noticed by the people who look to them for guidance on how to follow God’s law. Jesus was not intimidated by them, nor was He concerned about how He might be perceived by those who might be influenced by the Pharisees. A normal man might feel the pressure and cave to the Pharisees in order to detract any negative attention, but not Jesus. He continued to heal, cast out demons and allow His disciples to pick wheat to eat when they were hungry on the Sabbath.
Jesus spent His time with people considered to be unworthy of any attention or kindness. He told Zacchaeus, a tax collector that He wanted to have dinner at his house. “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’” (Luke 19:7) He spent time with the Samaritan woman at the well and even she herself thought it was unseemly. “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink?’” (John 4:9)
In His first mention of the Sacrament of the Eucharist which was to come, He told the Jews they would have to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood in order to have eternal life. This was so shocking that even many of His disciples had trouble with what He was saying. Rather than backing down, Jesus doubled down. “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him on the last day.” (Jn 6:53-54) This was so difficult for some to agree with, that they left him after that.
Finally, in the most perfect way, Jesus illustrates what it means to stay strong and do God’s will in the face of adversity and intense opposition. In anticipation of His coming Passion and Crucifixion even our Lord Jesus Christ was frightened and prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Jn 22:42) At this point, given fear and loneliness Jesus felt, Satan’s suggestion that He command His angels save Him and deliver Him from His fate would be very tempting. But Jesus resisted. Despite all that He faced, He accepted that it is the will of the Father that should be carried out. He was mocked, ridiculed, spit on, beaten, tortured and put to death on cross. He was completely innocent of any crime. He endured it all out of loving obedience to the Father and out of love for us. In the face of evil, He picked up His cross and carried on.
The death our Lord endured for us did not have to be. He could have saved us with a word, or with a snap of His fingers. He did it so that we would have an example of what we are called to do. His Passion and death show us how to unite ourselves to Him and endure everything for Him and with Him despite our own sufferings, even to the point of death.
Then, the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ! Just as the heroes of the Old Testament were rewarded for their faithfulness to God, we also receive our reward. With the resurrection of Jesus, the first sin of Adam and Eve is rectified and we can finally live in union with our Lord and Father for all eternity. In doing His will for us, rejecting the temptations of Satan and doing what is right when we are mocked and ridiculed, we are rewarded with eternal life in Paradise with the Holy Trinity.
God, in all of his wonderful wisdom, knew we would have the desire to follow Him, but in our human weakness to sin, would have trouble doing so without guidance and support. And so, He left us with the Church. He established His family here on Earth, so that we might stand strong against Satan with others as a community of Faith. The Mother Church contains the deposit of faith, so that it can be passed down through the generations untainted, so that we may always know what is good and right and have confidence in defending that Truth. In turning to the Church in all things, we can be assured we are on the path to our salvation and the Kingdom of God.
In the gift the Mother Church, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and our story has continued on long after Jesus has departed this Earth. Throughout our Church history, we have shining examples of how to continue to stand strong in Faith in the face of adversity. St. Paul persecuted the early Christians and, after being shown the error of his ways, converted to Christianity. He wrote many letters to his brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging them to always do what is right. “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil; then the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:17-20)
The earliest Christians chose to follow Christ knowing it would mean certain death. They illustrate for us the passion with which we should love and follow Jesus – to the point of death. St. Agnes, St. Lucy and St. Cecelia were all young girls who dedicated their lives to Christ fully. When told they would be spared if they renounced their faith, they all refused and were tortured and killed. St. Joan of Arc, despite tremendous opposition, was courageous and strong, staying faithful to God’s call and led an army to fight against England for France. St. Thomas More was a trusted member of King Henry VIII’s court, but refused to align himself with the king when the king decided to divorce his wife, separate from the Pope and create himself as the head of a new church. Telling the courts he could not go against his conscience, More was sentenced to death. St. Maria Goretti, wanting to protect her virginity, fought off a rapist and as a result was stabbed by him. On her deathbed, she forgave her attacker. When St. Gianna Beretta Molla was pregnant with her fourth child, she refused an abortion that would have allowed doctors to perform a life-saving operation after they found a fibroma on her uterus. She told her doctors that if it ever came down to saving her life or her baby’s, they should choose the baby. She died seven days after giving birth. And today, tragically in the Middle East, Christians are being martyred because they refuse to renounce the risen Lord.
This leads us to you and me. We are also part of The Story of Salvation History. We are characters in this story and like all of the characters before us, we have a role and a purpose. While there has been no new revelation, God continues to work in us and through us to proclaim His will for the world. How are we saying “yes” to God’s call? When we are faced with adversity in our world today, are actively standing strong in our faith? Do we do what is right even when it is difficult or when we’re faced with ridicule? Are we willing to stand up for our Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing that it may come with undesirable effects? We should and can do all of these things, because we have God on our side – the God who won the heavenly battle and defeated the ultimate enemy. “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt. 10:16-20)
Jesus promised us He will come again and He WILL come again in glory. And when He comes, we will all be judged accordingly. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” (Mt. 25:31-33) If we have followed Jesus faithfully, most especially when it was difficult, we will be His sheep. We can then live forever with our shepherd who will keep us safe from the wolves for all eternity. Since the beginning of creation, God deepest desire has been for us to be with Him out of our own desire. He provided us with a means to salvation in His son, Jesus. And through His divine revelation of Himself to us, has provided us with countless examples on how to follow Him. We shall live with those who have gone before us, all united as one, in the Kingdom He has prepared for us in perfect union with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.