THE FRUITS OF FAITH
The greatest hunger of the human heart, I am convinced is to live in peace. Peace is found when one can be free to live in harmony with the ways of God. Our country claims to stand for peace, but it cannot achieve peace as long as it does not free itself to live in harmony with God. Freedom to live our faith is the way to peace.
In recent times, our country has begun efforts to silence everything that expresses faith in action. If a Catholic University opens its classes to non-Catholics, for instance, it is no longer a religious entity. If the church helps heal poverty by extending a helping hand to everyone regardless of their faith, then that church is no longer considered a religious entity. In other words, faith is reduced to catechesis and ritual, to mental and spiritual exercise without external practice in works of charity and service to mankind. Action belongs to the government they say.
This is not as it always was. In the beginning, the book of Wisdom reminds us: “For [God] fashioned all things that they might have being. God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.” Like a wonderfully created window of cut glass put together in harmonious colors did God make the heart of humanity! But evil entered in and the devil came to break that window into shattered pieces that seemingly cannot be put back together, pieces that can damage and hurt when mishandled and perhaps even used as weapons to destroy those people around us.
Paul explains to the Corinthians that the work of faith is to excel not only in discourse and knowledge but also in the love we have for others. From our abundance we must give to the needs of others so that equality should exist among us. In this way: “whoever [has] much [does] not have more, and whoever [has] little [does] not have less. It is in such good works that our faith can find meaning and fulfillment, destiny and action. To penalize the works of faith by reducing them to political action is to degrade the very essence of Christ’s healing presence in this life.
The healing of humanity cannot be obtained by simple political ruses. Peace in hearts, in our nation and in the world can only be achieved when we begin to recognize the role of faith in living out the ideals of universal salvation. Faith is not something to close us up and clench our human strength into passivity. Faith is a reaching out to the needs of the world with the compassion of Jesus, embracing all mankind’s needs in the work of renewing it. Putting the pieces together demands careful attention to who we are as children of God rather than children of political choices.
Even as we have been praying for the wisdom of God politicians continue to hold that religion has no part in health care decisions. In the face of such unwise decisions we must continue to protect religious freedom in our country. For this reason I offer for your consideration five positions for Catholics to rebel against unjust laws as suggested by a Catholic author:
1. Avoid being a cafeteria Catholic. We can’t pick and choose what we believe and still claim to be Catholic. Be really, faithfully and unapologetically Catholic, says Archbishop Charles Chaput. Be mature leaders in the needs of society.
2. Put aside our pride and surrender: St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us of what God can accomplish if we lay aside our private agendas and set ourselves humbly at the task of saying yes to Jesus and His Church.
3. Practice Personal Holiness: Let us clothe ourselves with the vesture of Jesus which we receive at Baptism, Confirmation and especially at weekly celebration of the Eucharist, and bear witness to it in all the choices of life without weakening or compromising the teachings of Christ. This encouragement was highlighted by Blessed John Paul II in Christifideles Laici.
4. Be joyful! Last weekend, I alluded to this need of not getting lost in our worries but let ourselves be set free to be joyful. People are watching us and if they find us unhappy in our faith, they will sneak in substitute choices that will further break down the integrity of our faith. If we find the joy of our faith then the world will want to know what is going on among us recognizing something they too are seeking: a peaceful joy that gives serenity to the heart and to our lives.
5. Pursue heaven, reject the world. What will we stand for in rough times? Will we allow empty idols to become the path of false hopes? Doing right is not easy as we learn in this time of our history. For once, we need to know that we cannot always count on others to do right for us. Sometimes we just have to get to the right thing by the energy and power of the Spirit within us. In the face of the many choices, why should we not choose the kingdom of God over the kingdom of man?
If we cannot change the hearts of those who have been appointed to serve, then we must strengthen our hearts ever more fervently toward the work of God among us for the sake of those who like the young girl in the Gospel today need the healing service of Christ. The little girl may seem dead to those who proclaim a theology of death. But for the wise, there is a way to bring new life. The work of Christ may not always be respected by those who seek to replace religious freedom with human imposition. Let us be more fearful of the just judgment of Jesus than the flawed judgment of a government bureaucracy.
In our lives let us seek and expect excellence, not mediocrity. That was the call of Paul to the Corinthians and it remains the charge of Americans in this century. We cannot allow ourselves to bring forth fruit of perdition over the good fruit of justice and charity. May it be ever more clearly so in our blessed land of liberty. We are only truly free when we are free to serve the good of that life God has entrusted to us. What good is a law that does not find its roots in the Law of God? May we have a happy Fourth of July affirming the independence given to people of faith.
O God our Creator, Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, We ask you to bless us Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
We ask you to bless us
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
We ask this through Christ our Lord.