If you look at today’s gospel, you can see this is where Jesus proclaims that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Catholic Church. What does that mean?
Well, why would Jesus have to make a statement like this? What does He say:
That there is a Hell
That there is a battle between the Church and this Hell
That Hell will lose but until that time there will come a time when the battle be fierce.
A lot of people take this passage to mean that the gates of Hell will not defeat the Church, but gates are a defensive weapon. Gates are there to protect what is behind them. What Jesus says is that in the final analysis, the gates will fall to the attacking Church.
However, when an army ends up at the gates of the enemy territory, it is usually at the end of the fiercest part of the battle.
Many years ago, I learned that just as Jesus did all He could so that each of us can be saved, the devil will do almost all he can that each of us may be lost. St. Paul taught that we draw our strength against the devil’s tactics from the Lord who defeated him. The Lord’s death and resurrection overcame the devil, but Lucifer works hard to distract you from that simple truth.
So, the devil will do all he can to get you to believe that the Church will fail. He does that by trying to get as many people he can to reject Christ’s gift of salvation. The battle is fierce and many experts and saints warned throughout the years that we are in the most fiercest element of that battle. In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church actually teaches this: in paragraph 675 it says:
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
Remember, what is the final outcome of this battle. The eternal imprisonment of the devil, all his angels and disciples and for those who persevere in Christ the coming of a New Heaven and a New Earth. The greatest tool of the devil is leading us into sin so that we stand obstinate before God and reject His kingship over our lives as we enforce our own will. We cannot enter Heaven under those conditions. It is a fierce battle.
What is our greatest weapon, the sacraments, prayer, and penance in a quest for holiness. The ways that Christ works through His Church and through us. These are powerful weapons against which all of hell has no recourse.
The more we seek to be obedient to the Christ in His Church and grow in holiness, the stronger we are in this battle. The more we dismiss the Church as old fashioned and medieval, the more we are weak in this battle in which we are engaged.It is a fierce battle.
In fact, there are tactics laid out by community organizers who take the devil as their model to bring down the Church. As silly as that sounds and even outlandish, it is absolutely true and believe it or not they teach that in university classrooms. What is their tactic? Exactly what you see happening. “If you want to destroy the Church, focus on her sins,” they teach word for word . Might as well be out of the devil’s mouth. But they will also fail in their goal.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen warned priests many years ago to do a daily holy hour and laity to pray for 20 minutes before the blessed sacrament if possible. He promised those who do so will never be lost. I have done so since my days in the seminary. Cardinal Seán asks that all priests pray for two hours daily, this includes mass. These are the tactics that we must use for our own strength in this war. But you too need to be families of prayer and people of prayer, serious prayer because remember: There is a fierce battle between Hell and the Church to take down the gates of Hell. Each of you became part of that battle when you took your baptismal vows seriously.
For many years I have been warning people that the Church has been in difficult times but we have to realize why and we are seeing it now. I taught people that our difficult times over the past fifteen years as Church are God strengthening His Church, because there will come a time that the world will be in disarray and will need a strong Church to be there for the salvation of souls. It is looking more and more daily like we are getting close to that time. You are here every Sunday. Your simple presence is a powerful tool in this battle and helps you to be strong as we continue down this unique time in American history and in the history of the Church.
The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, but until those gates fall, we are in battle for the salvation of souls. Which souls, please do not say just our own, that is true, but the souls of everyone you will meet this week outside that Church. As you meet people this week, look into their eyes and remember our mission as Church is to save their soul. We have a powerfully fierce role as members of this Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail. But Hell is always trying to prove Jesus wrong.