Sunday, 13 November 2016
Fortitude & Remembrance Sunday, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today our nation keeps Remembrance Sunday, when we recall those who died in the wars of the last century. We recall the horror of war, and our resolution not to repeat the evils of the past century. We recall, also, the bravery of so many who stood firm when they could have given way to evil.
Our Scripture readings today, which are not specially chosen for Remembrance Sunday, nonetheless speak to us of the virtue of fortitude –that virtue that is classically associated with the soldier.
And it's about fortitude that I'd thus like to speak about today.
I recently finished reading a book about fortitude (Gomez, Men of Brave Heart).
The book, obviously, makes repeated reference to the image of the soldier.
But what struck me most in the book is it's description of how fortitude needs to permeate EVERY Christian’s life –there is a battle that we ALL must fight, both within ourselves, with the Evil One, and with evil in general.
Unless we live the life of a couch potato, we all spend our lives STRIVING in the pursuit of ‘goods’.
We all strive for ‘goods’:
The good of passing an exam after extended study,
the good of acquiring a salary to support your family,
in fact, even the couch potato strives for a ‘good’ –just the not very spectacular good of sitting on the sofa.
Some goods are harder to acquire than others, and this is where fortitude comes in:
Fortitude is the particular virtue that gives us strength, “firmness of will” in the pursuit of “the ARDUOUS good” (Catechism n.1808; St Thomas, ST II-II q123ff), strength in the face of fear.
Classically, it is most completely seen in that firmness of will manifested in the face of death by the soldier –pursuing the arduous good of defending others.
In the Gospel today we heard the Lord Jesus speak of the “endurance”(Lk 21:19) we will need to “win your lives” in the midst of the fearful events that will accompany the End of Time.
He tells us to “not be frightened”, even while describing things that might lead to fear.
We might note that elsewhere He speaks of many other more comforting and encouraging parts of the struggle:
If it is an “arduous” good that the Christian seeks, He tells us of the perfect beatitude (c.f. Mt 5), complete happiness, that comes with this good.
If there are things to fear, He tells us that He has “overcome the world” (Jn 16:33) and that His “grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9).
But, nonetheless, His focus in this passage is on the need for that “endurance” if any of this is to be overcome.
The book on fortitude that said I read spoke, at length, about how this battle, this not giving up, this not being overcome by the “arduous” –this characterises ALL Christian existence:
The need to be strong against comfort eating in gluttony,
The need to be strong against selfishness in the need to serve others in love,
The need to be strong against temptations to impatience and irritability etc.
We see that strength typified in the soldier.
We see that strength manifested, in perfection, in Christ in the Cross, who endured all things for love of us, in pursuit of the arduous good of our salvation.
So, today, on Remembrance Sunday, when we think of the fortitude of the soldier,
let us think about how this typifies our whole Christian lives,
And let us look to the Lord’s example on the Cross to endure to the end,
and ask the Lord for the grace to endure with that endurance that will “win you your lives”.