[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith Christmas just days away, we turn our hearts toward the humble stable in Bethlehem where the Savior of the world was born.
In the midst of the clamor of the world and the unrelenting violence around us, this conscious decision to focus on Jesus Christ, Ruler of the Universe, girds us with the truth: the Child born in the silence and stillness of the night was sent to redeem us and heal our broken world.
We need to remember who we are and who He is.
I truly believe we are at a point in our country’s history where most of us have forgotten — or never even learned — this fundamental truth.
Who are we? What do we stand for? What are we living for? What are we willing to die for?
The Islamic State terrorists who struck Paris and who inspired the San Bernadino massacre this month continue to strike throughout the world, day after day. They know exactly who they are, what they stand for and what their objectives are. ISIS has never wavered in its aims.
They stand for a worldwide caliphate that will impose its interpretation of Islam, complete with beheadings of Christians and the stoning of adulterers. They stand for fear and absolute power and control. They stand for death and destruction. They are appalled by the notion that God would take on human flesh and dwell among us, that He would heal the sinner and embrace the prodigal.
In short, they have made their objective clear: to stamp out all other religions and have their repulsive black flag fly over the White House and the Vatican.
And what is our response? Right now, a third of U.S. adults under 30 have no religious affiliation whatsoever. Atheism, secularism and agnosticism are growing steadily. “The majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible,” says author Sherry Weddell in her blockbuster “Forming Intentional Disciples” (p. 46).
Reality check: we won’t defeat a diabolical, rapidly growing, murderous ideology with vague notions of spirituality. We won’t defeat ISIS with a few airstrikes and some rhetoric.
During World War II, there was a national consensus about the necessity to band together and defeat evil regimes intent on swallowing the world. There was a spiritual quality to the national mood, a common conviction that good would triumph. I don’t think you could say that about the U.S. today. We have become a nation of navel gazers, unsure of what we believe. We define our own truths at our peril.
The truth is that the same God who raised the dead and healed the blind lives today, answers prayers today, listens to our hearts’ earnest pleas today. He created us to be free and to live in freedom. He’s calling us to turn toward Bethlehem and consider the frail humanity He embraced by living among us as the Son of God, Son of Mary.
He calls us to defend the weak, to ransom the captive. He empowers us by His Spirit, strengthens us by grace and the sacraments. He arms us with boldness and confidence that His love will conquer all, even the most hardened of hearts.
Our identity as Christians is inextricably intertwined with the Person of Christ, the Suffering Servant, who told us bluntly, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”
“You’ve got to wake them up!” one Catholic priest from the Middle East told me recently. “Americans will not understand until it is too late.”
So consider this a wake-up call. Pray that more and more people will come to know Jesus Christ personally, that they will commit themselves to lives of service and sacrifice. Pray that terrorists will be thwarted and that their hearts will be converted. Pray that Christians who risk their lives for our faith will be protected. Pray that we will remember who we are in Christ.