On Courage

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

Mark Twain

Survival School

by Dcn. Wayland Momcrief

In 1971, shortly before his death, the atheist and activist, Saul Alinsky, published his book, Rules For Radicals. Since it's publication it has become the gold standard for revolutionaries and politicians who want to fundamentally transform the established order. However, it is a book we should all read – not to adopt Alinsky's methods - but to understand the strategy used against Christians, Jews, and all people of moral principles and faith.

Alinsky was a community organizer. In order to build power within his constituency, Alinsky would portray his followers as victims who suffered abuse at the hands of his opponents. This perceived victimization would create bonds of unity among Alinsky's community and put his opponents on the defensive – portraying them as perpetrators of inexcusable bigotry and cruelty. He would select specific issues and stir up conflicts to divide his opponents - pitting white against black, gay against straight, rich against poor, and sinner against saint - even exploiting the most devastating tragedies, like mass murders, to promote his agenda.

Alinsky's tactics ignore all moral considerations. They have only one purpose and that is winning at any cost. However, even Alinsky and his followers will quote Scripture when it can be used to their advantage. These tactics are highly effective and can be defeated only by recognizing their use. So, it's very important that we are aware, prepared, and not surprised or defeated by the no-holds-barred tactics of these political and social revolutionaries. To arm ourselves, to protect ourselves and our country, we need to know the weapons the enemy uses against us.

Appropriately enough, on this Independence Day weekend, when we celebrate the birth of our great nation, the Universal Church offers readings that are essentially a survival school for Christians in hostile environments.

In last Sunday's Gospel Jesus said, “Follow me.” , but the man objected, ”Lord [he said] let me go first and bury my father.” Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go, and proclaim the Kingdom of God. 1 Seldom was Jesus as direct as He is here.

The primary mission of the Church is the salvation of souls. Jesus tells us that to survive, to flourish, in a world largely influenced by Satan, we must energetically commit to this mission. Jesus directs us, and empowers us, to go forth and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

That we are allowed to participate in the salvific mission of Christ is a great gift. It, not only, shows Christ's love for us, but His confidence and trust in us. Actively fulfilling Christ's mission, our mission, shields us from the distractions and attacks of the enemy. Jesus spoke in very direct terms to the man who was hesitant to follow, and He speaks very directly to us. He says, “Follow Me.” 2

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” 3 Jesus' life, in the view of the world, seemed anything but peaceful. He traveled constantly and slept in the fields. He was followed by thousands, each demanding something from Him. He was abandoned, scorned, rejected, and put to death. Yet, Jesus says, “My peace I give to you.”

What is this peace that Jesus gives? It is the peace of forgiveness. It is the gift of salvation. It is finding our role in the mission of Christ. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” 4 Jesus reminds us to remain attached to the Vine. Only there can we find serenity in the storm. Only there are we protected, immune, from the provactions of the enemy. Jesus says, “If you remain in me … ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." 5

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” and “The Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.” Jesus broadens His Mission by sending out seventy-two disciples empowering them to act in His name. He tells them, “I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon the full force of the enemy, and nothing will harm you.” Jesus is telling us to broaden our vision, expand our mission, and employ the power He has given to those who believe.

He says, “I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” He warns us that Satan's armies will attack, and to expect opposition. Courage, in the face of the enemy, is characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not to huddle in fear of being accused, slandered, cursed, and attacked by the enemy. Ridicule is one of Alinsky's most popular tactics and some of his disciples have elevated it to an art form by combining it with humor. We will survive only by trusting in God's providence.

Jesus says, “Ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.” We are the laborers, the disciples, the soldiers of Christ that the Master has sent. Jesus asked His Father for us. He tells us to, “Go on your way.” Your faith, and the power of My Name will save you. In times of difficulty, remember the proverb, 'Courage is fear that has said its prayers.'

Jesus warns His disciples “greet no one along the way” . Distraction is not only an Alinsky tactic but one that has been used by Satan since the days of Adam and Eve. That is why in times of economic and political unrest, unemployment, terrorism, the beheading of Christians, and a host of real societal ills, the topics of the media news services are the bathroom privileges of transsexuals, and a host of other insane and intentional distractions.

To resist the influence of Satan, and the corruption of society, we cannot become sidetracked. St. Peter said, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” 6

Jesus tells us to trust, to remain focused on our mission, and then He empowers us to accomplish our task. He guarantees us that nothing will harm us. Satan is helpless if we trust fully in God and surround ourselves in the community of believers, His Holy Apostolic Church.

Jesus says, “Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you … say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.'” Jesus knew discouragement and rejection. What He wants us to remember is that everyone is free to accept or reject God's grace. Salvation and discipleship are individual choices. We can lead a horse to water, but we cannot make him drink. We can persuade, but we cannot convince. Even Jesus couldn't win over the Pharisees. Judus traded his salvation for thirty pieces of silver. So, why would we expect anything different?

Discouragement is largely the result of unrealistic or unfulfilled expections. When asked by a reporter how it feels to be so unsuccessful, Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, “I wasn't called to be successful. I was called to be faithful.” Jesus tells us to put our confidence in Him, and to shake the dust of discouragement off our feet!

Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” 7 Our yoke is easy and our burden is light only when we give ourselves and our work completely over to Jesus. We are simply instruments in His hands. We can expect rejection, persecution, and obstacles, but we must not despair. Discouragement is always defeated by hope, and we are stronger than we realize. We are stronger in the power of Christ than we can ever imagine.

When the seventy-two returned they said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of Your Name." Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.” Trusting in Our Lord, we wipe the dust from our feet, and place our our work and our burdens into Jesus' hands.

One of the great lessons of ministry I learned from my brother. He was a pastor in a ghetto mission for thirty years. When he began, prostitutes filled the neighborhood streets, and drug dealers used the mission parking lot as a drop zone. In his first year of ministry he was cursed, threatened, spat-on, and mugged. His building was a shambles: broken into many times, tagged by gangs, and it required constant repair. He was frustrated and discouraged. All his efforts, all his work, all his good intentions seemed in vain.

Then one day he told me how he managed to survive. He said he realized that he was relying on his own strength rather than relying on the power of Christ. He said, it was then that he learned, in concrete terms, that the work was God's, that God was in charge, and that what he needed to do was not lead, but to follow.

He established food services for the poor, medical facilities for the ill, gave clothing to the naked, and became highly regarded and protected by the community. Many souls came to Christ. What was once a ghetto of despair became a center of life and hope, and the center where my brother worked was later named for him.

Jesus reminds that people may be apathetic, but they are seldom truly indifferent. There is always the possibility for change. Some will provide tremendous support, but others will abandon you. Some will be receptive, but others will be argumentative and openly hostile. In the face of all the anger, addiction, perversion, and suffering we encounter in life, it's easy to feel overwhelmed - to give in to despair, to think we are inadequate, or even that Jesus is disappointed in us. Jesus tells us to trust in Him. Do not give in to despair. Do not let Satan's disciples weaken your spirit.

This weekend, as we celebrate Independence Day, we have ample reason to be thankful. We live in freedom, a freedom which came and continues to come at a very high price. We live in a prosperity that our forefathers could have never imagined, but equally, there are reasons to feel discouraged.

In recent years we have witnessed historic levels of corruption in our government. People of faith, Christians and Jewish alike, are belittled and slandered at every opportunity. Abortion is still epidemic, and our public media and entertainment venues have become channels of vulgarity.

As Christians we are called not only to fight against the evils of our day, but to fight against the discouragement it brings. Sure, there will be times when we feel discouraged - times when all our efforts seem fruitless, and times when we fail. But, this is true in any worthwhile endeavor. Jesus reminds us to put all our energy and creativity into our work, but to remember that the work, and the results, are His. Our job is to trust, to remain faithful, to forgive, and be living instruments of His Divine Mercy.

Finally, in this discourse on Christian survival, we need to protect our spirit and our souls by fully immerse ourselves in Christ, in prayer with Him, in His Community of Faith, in His Sacraments, and in particular in the Holy Eucharist. Our Catechism tells us, “All the spiritual good of the Church comes from and returns to the Eucharist.” The Eucharist is, and will always be, our strength in battle and our salvation. It is, the source and summit of all our hope. So, when times are hard and we are battered by the storms of despair, remember the words of St. Paul, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” 8

Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new.” 9 “But you, go, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Baruch Hashem!