Defenders of the Faith Annual Dinner
Mass to begin the evening
Monday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time – Cycle 2
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
September 10, 2012
As we enter into the football season this fall, we might hear a coach say to his team the familiar adage, “The best defense is a good offense.” That coach will then work with his team on strategies that strive to keep the ball on the other team’s side of the field, thus not only creating scoring opportunities but preventing the opposing team from scoring. Military leaders speak of success resting with destroying the enemy’s ability to attack, such as the pre-emptive strike. Armies seek to acquire new territory rather than just holding on to their present position. Even in playing chess, your ability to prevent your opponent from attacking often depends on maintaining the initiative.
“The best defense is a good offense” has been applied to many fields of endeavor, and I suggest that it can, and should apply as well to us, who seek to defend our Catholic faith from attacks against it. The best way to defend our faith is to develop an effective offense. If we take action only when we are attacked, we will surely lose ground. But if we develop an effective offensive strategy, we have every reason, and a founded hope, of achieving victory.
The first offensive action in this strategy – and most important – is prayer. Jesus himself gives us this example. Note that in today’s gospel passage, Jesus is put into the position of defending himself. He heals the man with the withered hand, and is attacked by the scribes and Pharisees for violating the accepted opinion of the day. They become enraged and discuss together what they might do to Jesus. We don’t hear it in today’s passage, but it’s significant what Jesus does next. In verse 12, St. Luke tells us that Jesus “departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.”
Prayer is the first thing that Jesus does when his enemies are plotting against him. He doesn’t call his disciples together and strategize as to how to defend themselves against the attacks of the Pharisees. No, Jesus prays. And, he doesn’t just say the Lord’s Prayer once! He spends the night in prayer!
I think we can take our cue from Jesus’ example, that prayer, and lots of it, is our first and best offense to counter the attacks against the Church.
Immediately after this, in verse 13, Jesus calls together his disciples, and from among them, he chooses 12, whom he calls his Apostles. These of course became Jesus’ closest collaborators, whom he prayed with. They accompanied him on his mission of teaching, preaching, and healing. They were with him constantly. What does this mean for us?
It means that we too need to call together, from among the larger Church, those who can work with us, collaborate with us, for the mission. We can’t do it alone. This work that we are about is so important that we need to come together to pray, to learn, and to plan for the mission of defending the Church. That is exactly what this evening is all about – that’s exactly what the Catholic Defense League is all about – disciples of Jesus Christ coming together, gathering first of all around Christ himself in the Eucharist. Like the 12 apostles, we must always stay close to him, and follow his lead in our mission. And, we need to support and build up one another, just like the 12 Apostles.
And then what happens? In verse 20, Jesus teaches. He begins with the Beatitudes, teaching his followers how they are to be his disciples. Again, we can take our cue from Jesus. If we want to truly defend our faith, we need to teach it. We have, in our Catholics of today, probably the most poorly catechized 2 generations of Catholics that we have had in many years. Without worrying about where to place the blame, we need to change this. If we are going to be able to defend our faith, we need to know what that faith is. We need to do everything we can to learn the faith ourselves, and work for programs in our parishes and in our diocese that effectively teach the faith.
Programs like the Catechetical Institute in our archdiocese, family faith formation programs in our parishes, and personal programs of study are all extremely important. No one wants to defend a faith that they know little about. But when a person knows the faith deeply, he cannot but help to spread that faith, and defend that faith, because he falls in love with that faith. And, a person naturally defends what he loves.
Today, as we come together as Defenders of the Faith, let us commit to an effective offensive strategy. That will be our best defense. First of all being men and women of prayer – regular and serious prayer. Secondly, joining with one another and supporting one another in this effort, collaborating like the 12 Apostles, always with Jesus at the center. And thirdly, let us be teachers of the faith. First of all learning the faith better ourselves, and promoting ways for all Catholics to better learn our precious faith. Our best defense is a good offense.