A reflection on the Mass readings for November 13, 2022 — The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
On the flight home from my recent vacation, I had the opportunity to watch the two Creed movies. I had heard good things about the movies but never took the time to watch them, so a five-hour flight provided me with the opportunity. I’m glad I watched both of them. It’s often said that the sequel is never as good as the first movie but in my opinion Creed II was better than the first.
For those who don’t know the premise, the Creed films build upon the Rocky movies. Adonis Creed is Apollo Creed’s son. He never knew his father because Apollo died before he was born; however, he aspires to be a world class boxer as his father was. Adonis (Donnie) goes to Philadelphia to seek out Rocky Balboa who, reluctantly, decides to train him. In the first movie, Donnie makes a name for himself by going toe to toe with world champion Ricky Conlan. In the second movie, Adonis is challenged to a fight by Viktor Drago whose father, Ivan, killed Apollo Creed in a boxing match.
For the purpose of our reflection today, I want to focus on Creed II. In Creed II, the first fight is a disaster. Donnie is pummeled by Drago, so much so that he ends up in the hospital. His rib is broken, his kidney is badly injured, his brain is concussed. Donnie then finds himself in a crisis. It seems that he’s lost his will to fight. But, as all underdog movies go, he finds within himself the will to train even harder and to eventually beat Drago in a match in Russia.
What inspired me about this movie was Donnie’s perseverance. As we watch the film, we’re supposed to be inspired by his perseverance and motivation, by his hard work and determination. There’s also a spiritual lesson that we can learn from this film.
In the gospel reading today, Jesus tells his disciples, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” The word perseverance here can also be translated as patient endurance.
Many people might be frightened by this gospel reading. Jesus speaks of wars and insurrections, famines, earthquakes, and plagues, sights and signs that will be seen in the sky. And as we look at our world today we undoubtedly find much of what Jesus was prophesying. But our Lord does not intend to frighten us; rather, he intends to strengthen us: “Do not be terrified,” he says. “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Donnie was battered, bruised, and broken. But he persevered. He got up. He got stronger. And he won.
The Church in recent years, because of abuse and scandal, has been battered, bruised, and broken.
In life, we, too, can be battered, bruised, and broken.
So what is the Church to do? What are we to do when we are knocked down? Jesus instructs us: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
In the Christian life, perseverance (patient endurance) is the key to not only overcoming trials but to growing stronger in our lives. As we persevere in Christ, we are strengthened in Christ.
To quote Nilus of Ancyra (a 4th century monk and disciple of St. John Chrysostom), Patient endurance “is the queen of virtues, the foundation of virtue, a haven of tranquility. It is peace in time of war, calm in rough waters, safety amidst treachery and danger. It makes those who practice it stronger than steel. No weapons or brandished bows, no turbulent troops or advancing siege engines, no flying spears or arrows can shake it. Not even the host of evil spirits, not the dark array of hostile powers, nor the devil himself standing by with all his armies and devices will have power to injure the man or woman who has acquired this virtue through Christ.’
In pursuing a life of holiness and virtue, we are going to be knocked down at times. We are going to be battered, bruised, and broken; sometimes by our mistakes, sometimes by our sins, sometimes by a physical illness, and sometimes by people who hurt us.
The answer in all of these circumstances is the same: perseverance, patient endurance. Never give up, never quit. Keep going! If we remain united to Christ through prayer and the grace that comes to us in the sacraments, he will always give us the grace of perseverance, the grace that will lead us to holiness.
Image: Adobe Stock. By blas.