Boy, those readings are tough,
pretty grim, aren’t they?
The prophet Joel describes a battlefield;
In the Gospel, our Lord Jesus
describes a battle as well:
The battle that we face inside our hearts.
Sometimes we talk about how good it feels
to follow Christ.
But today’s readings remind us:
following Christ sometimes means
hard choices, making sacrifices,
and fighting battles.
Think of the men and women
fighting—right now—in Iraq.
They’ll tell you: that’s a situation
where your faith
becomes as real as real can get.
Someone is lying out there on the battlefield;
Will I go out—under fire—to save him?
No, you and I aren’t facing that.
But we still face a battlefield: in our hearts!
And those choices can be just as frightening.
They can be harder in one respect:
Because in the battlefield of our hearts,
We can be lulled into thinking
we don’t have to face it;
“There’s no battle;
there’s no sacrifice; don’t worry!”
We all face these battles;
The question is,
what kind of people will we be?
Every day a hundred choices are given us
Either to be people of courage,
and sacrifice, and virtue;
Or to be people who take the easy path,
who shrink back.
First we win the battles of our hearts
before we ever face the struggle of a real war.
Put it another way:
If we have embrace courage day-by-day,
In the little choices of life,
We’ll have it if and when
we face some titanic struggle.
Do we stay silent,
or speak the truth no one wants to hear?
Do we let someone be mistreated,
or stand up for what is right?
Do we take a stand for Christ,
or go along with the crowd?
Now maybe you’re thinking,
“Gee, I know how often I lose those battles!”
I understand: me too!
What I’m saying is,
those are the battles you and I,
and all of us, are given
so that we may become people of virtue and courage.
And the good news is,
there are powerful weapons available
to strengthen us in those battles.
And here’s one of them: the rosary!
Now that may not look like much of a weapon.
But I guarantee you, there are soldiers in Iraq,
clutching their rosaries as tight as their guns!
Because you can’t use a gun against the fear
that invades right here, in the heart!
Let me tell you a story about the rosary—
It could be ripped straight from the headlines.
A powerful army and navy gathers to invade a nation.
It is an army dedicated to Islam,
to conquer and kill Christians
in the name of Mohammed.
This happened on this day, in 1571,
about 450 years ago.
The Christians were badly outnumbered;
They had very little hope.
But what was at stake was freedom,
including the freedom to worship Christ;
because where Christians
had already been conquered,
the faith of Christ
was being squashed and stamped out.
The pope appealed
for Christian nations to act together,
Both militarily—on the battlefield—
But also to fight the battle of prayer.
And the pope asked every Christian
to pray the rosary
that the invaders would be turned back.
The battle shouldn’t have been won—but it was!
It was won through prayer.
And that’s why this is
the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
And the rosary is just as powerful in all our battles.
Guys, do you think the rosary isn’t for you?
That “real men” don’t pray the rosary?
No: “real men” know how much they need to pray;
And they don’t care what anyone thinks!
Because they know the battles they face
in their hearts and they refuse
to be conquered on that battlefield!
Girls, do you think you don’t have time for prayer?
As we grow into adulthood,
We recognize and accept
our responsibility to do our part.
And I know you agree, because you did that
a few weeks ago for the victims of the hurricane.
Will you accept your responsibility for prayer?
Not just when we adults bring you to Mass—
But on your own—on the battlefields of your heart?
None of us wants
to face these battles; but we do.
The question is:
do we want to be people of courage,
People who accept the cost
of being a soldier of Christ,
Rather than those who shrink back
and flee the battle?