RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: SEED OF LIFE
Jesus said to the crowds:
"This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land. . .”
When your pastor was assigned to this area and I followed, I realized that this was going to be the smallest parish I have ever served. I could not help but think about Jesus when it was informed that he was from Nazareth. The response was “What good can come from Nazareth?” I was wondering what good can come from small parishes? But it did not take me more than a few days to find out that bigger is not better and more is not necessarily merrier.
SCATTERING THE SEED
Today the scriptures tell us that great things rise from little things. The crest of the cedar that is cut from the top of the tall tree and transplanted into the ground grows to become a majestic cedar. The mustard seed when planted can become the largest of plants to house the birds of the air. Small communities can break into a great influence on society. Paul tells us it only takes courage. As long as we are in this world, we must offer the little that we have to make a difference in the growing needs of mankind.
In these weeks of Ordinary Time we are called aside in our Sunday worship to be reminded that we are sent to build a new kingdom. The power is given to us to bring about the growth of the church in difficult and demanding times. Nor should we feel useless, helpless or unable to carry out the task at hand. As we take time to recuperate from the demands of our jobs, our ministries, or our vocations during these summer weeks, we must prepare for what is to come.
As a Father nourishes his family and helps his children grow and mature so as to become contributors to the needs of humanity, so also as children of God are we called to prepare through faith and service to carry out our mission to change the world from all its suffering.
BECOME THE SEED
In these days, we hear of the Vatileak in Rome as well as the serious information leak in Washington. Ireland wants to illegalize the secrecy of the confessional and therefore make it a crime for priests to withhold information received in the sacrament of reconciliation. To the fragmented Society of St. Pius X, an extension of Bishop Lefebvre’s disobedience to Rome, there is need to offer private prelature separate from the all ordinary dioceses in the Church, almost as if granted it to exist on its own like a sore thumb in the Church.
Here in America we find continued efforts to reduce religious freedom in many forms of legal undertakings such as the recent HHS health insurance ruling. Accusations of partisanship are being made against the Knights of Columbus for their financial support of the National Council of Catholic Bishops in their fight against attacks on religious freedom. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious are defending their tendency to insubordination through political language instead of dialogue for unity. WOW! And much, much more! I hope you follow these issues that threaten the well being of our faith.
Based on this dis-ease of society and especially the lessening of idealism and faith in our country, we could well understand the spirit of Paul: I would rather be at home with the Lord. But as long as we are in this time and place of life, there is something for us to do.
The answer is to be the seed, to allow the power of God to change things in this society. We can multiply the ailments of society by a desire to impose our own preferences on government and church. Or we can heal the division of mankind by our willingness to listen and to follow the healing path of unity and love, One leads to disaster, the other offers hope for mankind.
FREEDOM TO BELIEVE AND TO GROW
The Bishops of the United States in their paternal responsibility to care for the souls of the American public, especially those who accept and live by the standards of Jesus Christ, have asked us to lead a time of prayer from June 21 to July 4 to reconsider the true meaning of religious liberty upon which this country was founded. They are asking us to plant a new seed in the midst of religious starvation.
Religious liberty is not a matter of each being free to pick and choose what we want out of life, out of the church, or out of our faith, like hungry travelers moving through the food line of a deli restaurant and requesting even that which is not offered for our hungry bodies. Religious liberty is about allowing persons to accept God’s gift of freedom to choose that which is good. God created us in freedom and planted that seed of freedom in the heart of man so that we might willingly accept the good which God and his Church present to society for the healing of mankind.
In our communities of Oakhurst, North Fork, Bass Lake and Yosemite, we have found that a small but cooperative group does more to strengthen our local communities then all the rhetoric and politics, human values and financial ideals of the modernism in which we live.
We need to renew the authentic meaning of true religious freedom granted once in our history. Today’s political and social network has forced us to once again call this religious liberty into question after all these decades of power that rose from a country built upon the rock of faithfulness to religious beliefs. From the top of the tall cedar which our country has been, we need to again cut the highest twig that will be planted and grow in the rich ground of renewed faith and freedom. What is slipping from under our feet must be captured under the wings of a new flight toward authenticity in our national and international leadership. We must become a new majestic cedar in the garden of God’s kingdom.
Each of us is but a seed, but when we bring our prayer, our lives, our commitment and our desire for true brotherhood together, we can not only heal but solidify the standards upon which the strength of our country has already stood: “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all”. As the American court of justice itself has said: religious liberty is to encourage true patriotism rather than impose a particular religion. When we live our faith in total freedom, then all things come to good by the one who transforms us into his kingdom. “The just shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow. They shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be.”
On this Fathers’ Day we pray: “Our Father, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This alone makes for a true day of the Father: Happy Fathers’ Day to every man, woman, and child who believes. May your seed of faith not be squelched but grow into a safe haven for mankind as promised by our eternal Father through Jesus his son.