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Knock Down Those Gates

8/3/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2004

The only thing missing from the gospel of the rich man storing his grain is the American Flag, which granted would make no sense in Jesus’ time. However, if you look at it, this story is as American as apple pie. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet, it is important for us, especially the Americans, to understand it well.

Let’s look what happened here. A man sustains a windfall profit and decides to retire and enjoy life. Isn’t that typically American? What is commonly said by those who win the lottery? “I am going to retire and enjoy life.” Indeed, this man’s hard work has paid off and if you really understand it, he has gained the Roman Empire version of the 401K or the Mutual Fund portfolio.

WHAT DID HE DO WRONG?

What is important to ask, however, is what did he do wrong? There is no evidence that he took the Lord’s name in vain, that he worshipped idols, killed, stole, committed adultery, etc. So what did he do wrong? Again, as Americans that is a question we can all ask ourselves.

Let’s look at the reading again. God calls the man a fool. The bible teaches that the fool is the one who says there is no God. That is what the man does wrong. Regardless of what he did externally, internally he lived his life as if God did not exist. Indeed, if you look further, notice what his life was based upon: a gamble. He planned his days around a time he could not control.

When we plan for our retirement, which is important, we are taking a gamble. We can never say for sure if we will enjoy the fruits of our planning. My Father planned to retire at 62 and died at 60. Not taking this into account the man expects to enjoy the fruits of his labor when he cannot control that reality.

HOW CAN AN AGNOSTIC LEAD SOMEONE TO CHRIST

However, there is another part to this that also needs to be examined. We need to see it in light of recent events. Recently, one of those groups that wants to “Change the Church” published a letter on online detailing the plans to stage a coup of the Roman Catholic Church. The person who heads up the coup is a professor at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. He has put together all the ideas of what to do to take over the Roman Catholic Church and members of this group are following him.

Here is the issue. He is an agnostic at best. Now, why is it that when people put this plan together no one said, “How can an agnostic stage a coup of the Roman Catholic Church? How can a person who rejects everything we believe in, lead people to Christ?” How is it that he was not laughed off the planet, when he announced his plans? The reason is the same reason the man in the gospel is called a fool.

The man in the gospel who pursued and got money was focused on what money ultimately is: worldly power. It is human power in a human world. It is the same worldly power that the agnostic seeks in the Church. Now as Catholics, we are called to reject a pursuit of worldly power. Did not Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek?”

YOU WILL RECEIVE POWER

So, if we humble ourselves before the Lord, then we reject the focus on worldly power. Then what? Then comes step two. Once we do that we receive our share of Divine Power. Did not Jesus also say in the second chapter of Acts “You will receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you?” That is what the man in the gospel lost. He was so focused on worldly power, he was never able to participate in the Divine. That is why an agnostic trying to take over the Catholic Church makes no sense, for he can only use worldly power which is no match for the Divine.

What are we supposed to do with our share of the Divine Power? I was listening to the words of Father Frank Pavone at the Vote Authentically Catholic Conference at MIT last week. He taught something that in my forty five years I had never heard before. Jesus says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. I have always taken that to mean that all the powers of Hell will not bring down the Church. He pointed out that I had it backwards. Gates protect what is behind them. What is behind the Gates of Hell? The Powers of Hell. When Jesus said the gates will not prevail against the Church, he did not mean that the powers will not knock down the Church. Jesus meant that we are called to knock down the gates of Hell. When we seek our share of Divine power, we have to power to do what we cannot do with Human Power: Knock Down the Gates of Hell.

KNOCK DOWN THE GATES

Here in Boston, somewhere over thirty children have been shot in this city since January and that is just Boston. That reality demonstrates some gates of Hell that need knocking down. Many of the perpetrators are victims of broken families and families with worldly priorities. Those gates need knocking down so ...

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