Every year in the United States of America we celebrate “Veterans’ Day” on November 11th, which historically marked the armistice (originally Armistice Day) ending World War I. If you are interested in the history of this American holiday, you can easily find it using Google, or any web search engine.
We should all be very thankful for the service of our veterans. Our country and the freedoms we sometimes take for granted were won by, and constantly protected by, the veterans of our Armed Forces. My grandfather served in the US Army during World War I; my father in the Navy Seabees in the South Pacific, some of my uncles served in the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force during the Korean War. I enlisted in the Army in the late 1960s myself.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, “a sure norm for teaching the faith,” as Pope John Paul II asserted, says this about military service in paragraph #2310, quoting “Gaudium et Spes”: “Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.”
It is the obligation of all of us, individuals and governments alike, to work assiduously for peace. As my Grandmother often said to me, “war is hell.” She knew as she had a husband and son that fought in both world wars, had nephews and a grandson go off to faraway places. She prayed, worried, and suffered because of war. Nonetheless, she knew, like so many of us do, that without the sacrifices of themselves and their loved ones, there would be no enduring freedom.
There is always something to be learned from the natural order that can be applied to the spiritual and moral life. One of the most common underlying misconceptions and fallacious presuppositions is that there is no evil in the world, that no one will hurt you if you just don’t hurt them. Wrong! There is evil in the world, there has been since darkness entered into Eden, and there will be until Jesus comes again in glory.
There is good and there is evil; there is truth and there are lies; there is life and there is death. Being neutral is a myth. Sitting on a fence is an accident waiting to happen. In the end you will be “for me or against me,” as Jesus says.
We are at war and “our battle is not against flesh and blood,” as St. Paul asserts in his letter to the Ephesians. A good soldier is ready to shed his blood, sweat, and tears for the cause of freedom. Jesus tells us, “I’ve come to set the captives free.” The servant is no better, no different, than his Master. The bottom line of war is victory, and this war is for an eternal prize.
We honor our veterans this week, and rightly so. Let their sacrifices for our country inspire you to even higher things. You and I are called to fight the good fight and run the race to the finish line. Performing our mission as good Catholics and Christians affects countless other souls, some we know, some we don’t. So, as St. Paul cautions us, “Don’t shadow box. Fight so as to win.” Don’t imagine there is not a moral and spiritual war either. This fight results in victory or defeat, Heaven or hell, forever.