Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 2020

My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened. Let all your things be done in charity.

In the Apostolic reading today, Saint Paul instructs the Corinthians – and, in fact, all of us – in the proper bearing with which a Christian is supposed to carry himself or herself. We do well to hear these words today and to take them to heart, and to strive, each of us, to live according to these instructions:
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened.

We live in trying times. This is evident – I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But in the midst of trials it can become easy to forget oneself, to forget one’s sublime calling as a Christian, to become wrapped up in contentions and nonsense which runs wild in the media and even in our streets.

Such worldly and materialistic delusion is not our calling. It never has been.

Rather, our call is, as Saint Paul tells us today: to watch, to stand fast, to do manfully, and to be strengthened. And to let all of these things be done in charity – which is the supernatural love of God. All these things done in and for charity – the supernatural love of God.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened.

First we must watch. We must be vigilant. We must be aware of ourselves, of the state of our souls. We must be aware and protective of those under our care. We must keep our eyes open, keep a watch for the enemy of peace, the enemy of grace. And this not only for exterior enemies we must watch, but also – far more importantly – for the enemy, which is sin, the interior enemy which attempts to take up residence within our own hearts. The demon of laziness, the demon of pride and self-aggrandizement, the demon of vengeance, the demon of despondency: these are so quick to run to the heart of one who is not vigilant, one who does not keep watch. And when these demons take up residence, it is not long before the walls of all grace are breached within the heart and the fire of charity grows cold and is then extinguished. So, first we must watch.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened.

First we must watch. Second, we must stand fast, stand fast in the faith. Having been watchful, we will see quite clearly that as long as we live in this fallen world, then there will be a warfare we must undertake. Even if we live in a society which is otherwise peaceful – and we don’t, but just for the sake of argument here, let’s just say that we do – even if we live in a society which is otherwise peaceful externally, we will still have the struggle of fighting the good fight within the human heart. This can not be escaped, nor should we seek to escape it. What we should learn, however, is that the soundest way to defeat the enemy which is sin is not to attempt to outwit it. Not to attempt to overpower it with our own natural power. That is pure hubris, and is bound to fail. No, more than anything in the fight we are to stand fast, stand fast in the faith, remain strong and unwavering, holding fast to the faith and to the unshakable Foundation which is none other than the Lord Himself. In the fight we must stand fast.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened.

Stand fast; but this does not mean, then, that we are merely in a position of defense. Grace is a powerful defense, to be sure, a sure shield. But the life of grace is not merely a life of defense, the Church of Christ is not on the defense, but on the offense. For, as our Lord Himself assures us, the very gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. The gates of hell will not prevail.

Now, tell me. Are gates an offensive weapon? Think of it, think of the great walled cities, fortified cities with the large gates within the walls. These protective gates. Would the army of that city go out to war carrying the gates off their own city? Are the devils prying the gates of hell off their hinges and running around the world with them to knock people down into perdition? Is that what you do with gates?

No. Gates are defensive. Gates keep enemies out. And the gates of hell were intended by the devils to keep God out! To keep light out! To keep grace out! To keep life out!

But our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church with Him drive all demonic power back into hell, for our Lord Himself has trampled down death by death, He has taken Hades captive, and though the demons may attempt to cower behind the gates of hell, the power of the Lord smashes the very gates of hell, and His power, His victory, His sovereignty extends even into the vanquished realm of death, and at His Name every knee will bow, whether in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And this kind of offensive action is exactly the action of which Saint Paul speaks when he instructs us to “do manfully.” To act not as one enslaved, but as one free. As one who is victorious. To act with all virtue, with prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. This is the distinguishing characteristic of “doing manfully,” to act with virtue, and with power. And this kind of “manful” act is quite do-able whether you are a man, or a woman, a boy, or a girl. We must all “do manfully,” because for us men and for our salvation our Lord became man, so let us imitate Him, for the victory is our Lord’s.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened.

Finally, we must be strengthened. It is, in fact, by doing the previous things: watching, standing fast, doing manfully, that we become strengthened. Because, frankly, we may not be very sure of our own strength. That’s actually pretty sensible. If we are honest, we know our own weaknesses.

But strength comes by doing. So if we are unsure of our own strength, then let us watch. If we are feeling weak, then let us stand fast. If we are afraid, then let us do manfully. It is in then offering ourselves in these actions unto the Lord that we are made strong. Note that: Saint Paul doesn’t say “make yourselves strong,” but “be strengthened.” God will grant the strength to us if we watch, if we stand fast, and if we do manfully.

Let us make haste, then, to be strengthened, for the Lord is counting on it. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened. Let all your things be done in charity.

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