Summary: Scripture reminds us to contend with others, Christian or not, with charity as our rule of engagement.

Homily for Monday of 11th week in Course

2 Cor 6: 1-10; Mt 5:38-42

There’s an old story that after the battle of Waterloo, someone was speaking to Lord Wellington about the superior courage of his soldiers. He is supposed to have said “our men were not braver than the enemy. They were brave five minutes longer.” I think this story helps us understand two of the thoughts in this very dense passage from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

The first thought is that St. Paul characterizes his life and work with a word that is translated here “patience.” The Greek word makrothymia really means patient acceptance of the shortcomings of other people. I’ve noticed that when some folks accept Christ as their Lord, they begin to burn with zeal so intensely that they begin to judge others with the same critical spirit they apply to themselves. I don’t mean to say that we should pretend that evil is good. What I mean is that we should let the Holy Spirit remind us that every man and woman is at a different stage in the journey of life, the journey home to God. If others have shortcomings in their beliefs or actions, we should patiently accept them as persons and pray for their spiritual growth. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to help them intensify their faith and practice of their faith.

The other thought is that obscure phrase urging us to take up “weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left.” Recall that in ancient armies, the sword, an offensive weapon, was carried in the right hand, and the shield, a defensive weapon, in the left. This means that in the spiritual battle we all face, we need both weapons for attack and defense. Of course, we have our greatest power in prayer, especially the spiritual power of the Eucharist. Spiritual reading supports that prayer; apologetic reading–writing that defends our faith–helps us defend ourselves and others from doubt, despair and error. I particularly recommend the periodicals and books from Catholic Answers. Stories of conversion there and in books like Rome, Sweet Home are also helpful in honing our weapons.

On occasion you’ll discern a need to do battle with yourself, and your own temptations to succumb to passions like anger, lust, gluttony, greed, and pride. God will not desert you then, even if the temptations are powerful. You might be searching the Internet and stumble upon pornography, for instance. Look we all know instinctively what tempts us. There is no such thing as “soft” pornography. That’s like calling a mortal wound “a little fatal.” Call on the Lord’s help, and all the saints and angels to pray with you. Think of your mother, alive or dead, and put her picture in your mind. If you stumble or fall, always seek forgiveness. Confess your sin and ask for forgiveness; you will never be turned down.

One final comment about the waging of war on God’s terms: today’s Gospel reminds us to engage in battle with charity as our rule of engagement. The clumsy application of brute force must yield to persuasion and logical argument in any discussion of religion or morals. We had a slogan in sales that “nobody will pay you money to make them feel bad or stupid.” We have to remember that no matter how temporarily satisfying a rough confrontation may be, it is a success only if we and the person we are speaking to are at the end closer to the kingdom of God and the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Anything less would be a failure of charity, and even sinful. So when you have that kind of discussion, agree with your adversary on the ground rules of engagement well before you commence. In other words, do it like Jesus would, and go light on the sarcasm.

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