20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) – August 14, 2022
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40:2-4, 18; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
The Simple Sabotage Field Manual
During the Second World War, the United States had an intelligence agency called the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). This office’s job was to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines, as well as to make and distribute propaganda, and to encourage sabotage. In 1944 they wrote this little book called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual—a little book that could be distributed to allies in danger of or undergoing Nazi occupation. And this field manual for sabotage didn’t teach people how to make bombs or plan assassination attempts or something, no. In fact, the book explicitly says that you shouldn’t overreach your abilities; if you’ve never worked with explosives, now is not the moment to get carried away and think you can master explosives! The goal of the book, the reason they wrote it, was to give the reader something to do to frustrate the occupying forces. While living in enemy occupied territory, for most people, creating small snags is a much better plan than trying to engineer violent and dramatic ones. For example, it says you should leave tools in the wrong place, or clog machines you have access to (including toilets), to slow down decisions by referring them to committees, and on and on. Little acts of sabotage.
C.S. Lewis picked up on this idea when he wrote his book Mere Christianity. In this book he described how he sees this world and how he sees our role in it as followers of Jesus Christ. He writes, “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king [Jesus] has landed…and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret [messages] from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). Enemy-occupied territory: that’s how C.S. Lewis sees the world. And our job, our job as people loyal to the true king, loyal to Jesus, is to take part in a campaign of sabotage.
The people who read the Simple Sabotage Field Manual were taught to seize every available opportunity for little acts of sabotage, trusting that a thousand small acts of resistance will add up—instead of sitting on their hands, waiting for one big chance to act. C.S. Lewis sees our job as Christians in a very similar way: doing any and every act of sabotage possible, no matter how small.
And you have to remember: the enemy wasn’t just Hitler, but everyone in Germany that went along with his plan. The real enemy wasn’t just the Nazi’s, but everyone in the other countries that helped, compromised with them when they arrived in order to save their own skin. The real enemy wasn’t just “the enemy,” but everyone who didn’t speak up against it, everyone who went along with it. Right? That’s what the Nuremberg Trials established: “I was just following orders” didn’t count as a defense.
He Has Not Come to Bring Peace, but to Wage War
The reasons I bring this up is because of the seemingly uncharacteristic things Jesus is saying in our Gospel today. It is strange to hear these words about division and the absence of peace come out of Jesus’ mouth. Because Jesus is supposed to be “a nice guy,” right? The one who brings peace, the Prince of Peace (c.f., Is. 9:6), right? When he was born, the angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.” So what’s all of this business about division and that he apparently isn’t bringing peace?
Yes, Jesus’ mission is ultimately to bring peace, to bring a great unity—but first, there is a war to be waged. “Enemy-occupied territory—that’s what this world is.” The Enemy is here, and he is not about to give up on the territory he has worked so hard to gain power over. Who is the Enemy? Who has Jesus come to fight? The other political party? The other news channel? Russia? China? Raiders fans? Yeah, no. As our patron St. Paul will tell us in his letter to the Ephesians, “We are not contending against flesh and blood [any of these things I just listed], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Who is St. Paul talking about? Who is the real enemy here? Sin, Death, Satan, his followers, Hell. Now, to be sure: the Enemy can be served by a whole number of humans and human institutions. But don’t get it mixed up.
So, in this great war Jesus wages against the Enemy, the true enemy of the human race—we have to first make a decision: where does our allegiance lie? Are we for Jesus or against him? Where does your allegiance lie?
C.S. Lewis, in that same book, also talks about how many people try to avoid this question. They say, “Oh, well I think Jesus is a great example for us, that he teaches us to be good people.” And that’s as far as they go. But as Lewis points out, that’s not an option! Jesus was claiming to be the Lord, the true and rightful king of the world. This is why he was killed: he was making claims that only Caesar (the current king of the world) could rightfully make. So this whole, “Oh, Jesus was a nice guy” answer isn’t an answer. The first Christians were not martyred in huge numbers because they went around proclaiming, “Jesus is a nice guy who taught us some nice things,” no. They died because they proclaimed him as Lord. And if Jesus is Lord, then no one else is.
This is what Jesus is getting at when he says, “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me” (Matthew 12:30). Usually, what we hear people say is, “John? Oh, he never goes to Mass, and he tells people that the whole ‘Jesus thing’ is a waste of time. But don’t worry, he’s a good person.” But what Jesus himself is saying is, “That person is opposing me. That person is working against me.”
We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. Not the economy. Not the political agenda or political party we agree with. It’s not a doctor’s diagnosis that rules our life. It is not our kid’s sports schedule that is Lord. It’s not our job. It’s not anything. Jesus Christ. Last week we talked about how every week we say, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty,” and how we often don’t actually believe those words we say. This week, notice how we follow that up by saying, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.” We say it. But do you believe it? Do you live it? Or do you make compromises? As Jesus alludes to, as C.S. Lewis says explicitly—our allegiance must lie with the one true Lord, the one true king. And we are meant to be his agents of sabotage.
Our Activity: Non-compromising Acts of Sabotage
So how do we act as agents of sabotage? Violence? Absolutely not. Please don’t walk out of here with that idea. No, our sabotage means that we are working to thwart the Enemy, and to help rescue those caught in the darkness. And we are not called to do this on some huge grand scale! (Not most of us anyway.) We are not called to go yell at people at the Foodliner or something, no. We act as agents of sabotage—just like the field guide said— in small ways, often hidden, often unnoticed until later.
Our sabotage is to not compromise with the Enemy, to not go along with his plan, but to always find ways, more and more ways to act contrary to his plan.
- Do we make compromises when it comes to Sundays? Do we truly make Sunday a day of rest, a day of leisure? Or is Sunday just like any other day? Do we skip Mass frequently? Do we go to Mass because we have to and then spend the rest of the day working? Is Sunday more about watching 12 hours of football?
- Do we make compromises in our moral life? Do we do things and say, “Well, I’ll just go to confession later”? Do we go out with the intention of getting drunk? Do we use contraception, get a vasectomy, and brag about it to others? Do we say things like, “Everyone else does it,” and go along with the crowd? (It was the crowd that condemned Jesus; “everyone was doing it.” It was the “crowd” that went along with Hitler.) The true agent of sabotage does’t compromise.
- Do we compromise by just doing the bare minimum? Paying lip-service to Jesus by going to Mass, but never praying throughout the week? Never truly entrusting anything in our life to him, but living completely self-reliantly? Do we not support the church financially? Do we not volunteer? Are we ashamed to tell people we’re Catholic? Do we fail to defend our faith? Have we grown lazy in practicing the faith? Do we not truly make the effort to raise our children in practice the faith, never teaching them by our own example that Jesus Christ is Lord, not their soccer schedule?
Embracing the Cross for the Sake of the Joy
The reason we bring this up is because Jesus himself had zero compromises. Zero. To the point of dying. And why did our second reading say he did that? “For the sake of the joy that lay before him [the JOY that came from victory] he endured the cross…Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners [from allies of the Enemy], in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against Sin [THE REAL ENEMY] you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” How often do we give in, become allies of the Enemy, start making compromises—just because resisting becomes hard? The cross is the enduring image Jesus gives us to sustain us; that even when it looks like we’ve been defeated, we have not!
I have some good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that people will look at you different if you start living this, they will wonder what’s wrong and why you’ve changed—they will cast you out of friend groups, take you off of group chats, stop inviting you to things—mock you, call you “holier than thou,” up on your high horse—“Oh, look at you, so holy going to Mass on Sundays!” But the good news comes from Jesus’ mouth: “Blessed, happy are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12).
As many of you know, a few weeks ago I was up in Michigan for the final vows on my little sister, Sr. Lucy Fidelis. And during the Mass, my sister and five other women made vows, perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In other words, they made vows that they will not compromise with the lies that money will bring happiness; they will not compromise with the lie that purely physical comforts will bring happiness; they will not compromise with the lie that true freedom and happiness means “doing whatever they want whenever they want.” They made vows that their one true allegiance, their one true hope, their one true love—is Christ. Christ is all. And in doing this, they became great agents of sabotage. People look at them real funny like. And yet they look at them with wonder. People are disarmed when they see them. “Why would they do this? Why would they live their lives like that?”
The Goal of Sabotage? Evangelical Witness
We don’t act as agents of sabotage with the goal of making others angry, or trying to divide people. We aren’t in any way, shape or form supposed to imitate the talking heads on cable news who live to divide us, no. Sometimes that is a by-product, sometimes we lose friends, sometimes “father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter, and a daughter against her mother.” Yes, sometimes others we have loved, others we have deeply cared for, friends—sometimes there will be a division from them. But not a division of animosity, at least not on our part.
Our sabotage will provide a witness, though. Our goal is to be a witness, someone people look at and cause them to wonder, disarm them with the way we live our lives, cause them to ask, “Why do they do this? Why do they live their lives this way?” Because one who lives with the Lord has a joy, a fullness of life, a happiness that cannot be found anywhere else. And that is attractive—people will want what you have! And it is then that you can say, “I found this when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Come, let me show you. Come and see.”
We have to abandon the vow we have made to this world, the compromises we have made with this world and the ruler of this world. And we have to begin to act as these agents of sabotage, giving our entire life to Jesus in all of these small ways.
PERSONAL ACTS OF SABOTAGE
- PRAYER (Pick one or two habits to begin below)
- Read one Psalm each day
- Pray the Rosary on your drive to work
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet on your way home from work
- Spend 20 minutes in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament (Mondays, 8:30am-9:00pm)
- Stop in at the church for five minutes throughout the week
- Go to Mass every Sunday, even when traveling (visit masstimes.org for Mass times anywhere in the USA)
- Choose one other day during the week to attend Mass (Mass is offered M—Thu at 8:00am)
- Go to Confession once a month (Confessions offered 30 minutes before every Mass, or by appointment)
- LISTENING/PODCASTS (Listen in the car on your commute, or while working out)
- The Bible In A Year
- The daily Mass readings (bible.usccb.org)
- Bishop Barron’s Sunday Sermons
- The Word on Fire Show
- The Jeff Cavins Show | Your Catholic Bible Study Podcast
- All Things Catholic with Dr. Edward Sri
- The Road to Emmaus with Scott Hahn
- WATCH (Instead of the news, watch one of the following)
- Catholicism Series
- The Chosen
- READING (Read two paragraphs from a selected book on Sundays)
- Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
- The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
- Jesus of Nazareth – Benedict XVI
- Rediscover Catholicism – Matthew Kelly
- Rediscover the Saints – Matthew Kelly
- Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist – Brant Pitre
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Into His Likeness – Edward Sri
- Others located on shelves in parish hall
ADDITIONAL ACTS OF SABOTAGE AS A FAMILY AND MARRIED COUPLE
- Go to Sunday Mass together
- Make and eat dinner together as a family on Sundays, followed by a family Rosary
- As a couple, pray an Angelus together when you wake up
- Before lunch, pray the Angelus and Grace Before Meals
- Before dinner, pray the Angelus and Grace Before Meals
- Before going to bed, say a few prayers with your children
- As a couple, pray the Memorare together before bed