The Battle is the Lord's!
by Fr. Frank A. Pavone, M.A.
If you are reading this article, you are probably quite aware that we are at
war. The war is in defense of the gift of life, and of the convictions which
proclaim life to be sacred. You are also probably well informed about the
enemies, and their philosophies, tactics, and resources. The defense of life
takes many forms and they are all necessary: prayer, rescue, education,
political efforts, counseling, care of women in need, and so on. The needs are
overwhelming and urgent.
In the midst of this work, we need hope. St. Paul writes, "Whatever was
written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the
encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope." (Rom.15:4). Let's draw hope
from some of these Old Testament lessons.
At the very moment when God was about to bring Israel through the Red Sea, it
seemed as though they were doomed. "The Israelites looked up and saw that the
Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them. In great fright they cried out
to the Lord. And they complained to Moses, 'Were there no burial places in Egypt
that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?"' (Ex. 14:10-11). To all
human calculation, the situation was hopeless. Moses, however, saw what the
people did not see: the help of God. He therefore said, "Fear not! Stand your
ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today. These
Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord Himself will
fight for you; you have only to keep still." (Ex. 14:13-14). The Lord then
opened the sea and freed His people, but drowned Pharaoh and his army.
At the time of the judges, Israel was again threatened -- this time by the
Midianites. God raised up Gideon to fight for Israel. After he gathered his army
together, however, the Lord told him it was too big! God had him reduce the army
from 32,000 to 300! Why? The Lord told him, "You have too many soldiers with you
for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me
and say, 'My own power brought me the victory."' (Jdg. 7:2). With a small,
trustful army, God then won the victory for Israel.
At the time of the Maccabees, we see a third striking incident with the same
theme. Judas Maccabeus and his band of soldiers were defending the laws and
customs of Israel against those who would destroy them. Seron and the Syrian
army came against Judas. Scripture tells us, "When they saw the army coming
against them, they said to Judas, 'How can we, few as we are, fight such a
mighty host as this? Besides, we are weak today from fasting.' But Judas said:
'It is easy for many to be overcome by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no
difference between deliverance by many or by few, for victory in war does not
depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven" (1
Macc. 3:17-19). Again, the Lord won a great victory for Israel.
Let us draw strength from these lessons of Scripture. The battle for life
shall be won, despite all odds, despite all human calculations. The Lord fights
for us. We must still work courageously, tirelessly, constantly --- yet with the
awareness that He gives victory. The victory is ours, because Life conquered
death at a moment on Calvary when death seemed victorious. Even as we struggle,
we can sing the "Alleluia" of life. Of these Alleluias, St. Augustine writes,
"Here they are sung in hope, there (in heaven) in hope's fulfillment...So then,
let us sing now...in order to lighten our labors...Keep on making
progress...Sing, but keep going!" (Sermon 256).