The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail. (Matthew 16:18)
The data can be troubling. Studies continue to show a decline in church attendance, especially among young people. Fewer and fewer people are calling themselves Christian, with many opting for the vague term of “spiritual, but not religious.” Each of us probably knows someone who is struggling with their faith or who has left the Church. And yet Jesus promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church. How can we believe this?
Perhaps the best place to start is by taking these words personally. Remember, Jesus has placed his Church in our hands, so it’s worth asking what role we have to play in fulfilling the promise. “What can I do to make sure the Church remains safe?”
The answer is as simple as it is challenging: stay close to Jesus. He has already won the battle against the devil, so he can defend you as well. Try as they might, the powers of sin and darkness won’t be able to sway you if you keep yourself connected to the Lord. It doesn’t mean you’ll be free from temptation, but it does mean that you’ll find the strength to stand firm. Be faithful to daily prayer. Make the most of your time at Mass. Pursue the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And serve Jesus as he is present in the poor and needy.
Of course, these are the obvious answers. But have you ever thought about how, when you are praying or celebrating Mass, you are also pushing back the devil and his power? Remember, you are a member of the body of Christ. There are very real spiritual consequences to your prayer life—consequences for the entire Church! As you stay close to the Lord, you are strengthening and defending all of your brothers and sisters around the world.
It’s because individual believers all over the world are clinging to Jesus right now that his Church remains protected. So as you intercede today for the Church or for family members who are struggling in their faith, you can be confident in Jesus’ promise. You can pray from a position of trust because you are part of the answer to your own prayers!
“Jesus, you are victorious! You have given new life to each member of your Church. Strengthen your body on earth.”