"He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this?” (Gospel).

After two weeks of praying for the Protection of Religious Freedom, I wondered on the 4th of July what was going on in the hearts of all those who gathered to hold a traditional celebration of Independence Day. This morning I still wonder what is going on inside of you, inside of me. How is the assault on religious freedom throughout the world affecting us? Has it changed anything in us?  Are we still the same in our thoughts and faith response as we were a year ago, ten years ago or even a few days ago? Like Ezekiel and Paul, I ponder more and more on what is happening in my life as a priest, our lives as Christians, and the passing life of total humanity in the ever endless presence of God. I do hope that you are beginning to feel something of what I feel going on in my heart these days: a humiliating awareness of my failure to be more faithful to my God.

THE BREAKDOWN: Slowly, ever so slowly and yet with increasing speed the treasure of faith is being violated in our sight. Prayer is removed from our educational facilities and from our homes. Public display of faith is silenced. Religion upon which our country was founded has been placed as the enemy of American pride. The sacredness of life, marriage, procreation and human dignity has been degraded. Instead we are creating a generation dedicated to a philosophy of death. We have removed the creative beauty of sexuality and allowed our passions to rule the day at the destruction of respect and true love. We are creating increasing restrictive laws that will disarm the natural law of God and transmit divine power to frail human destructive power.

Throughout the world there is a rebellion against faith moving through every nation with the Catholic Church at the center of Evil’s desire to destroy faith at the core of its existence.  Man has become god and God has been weakened to the limitations of human self-destruction.

A NEED FOR PROPHETS:  Throughout all of salvation history, God has sent prophetic voices to announce a need for reformation in the breakdown of society.  Prophets are called to be the conscience of the people, to speak to us about renewing the fidelity of our relationship with God, a work that is not very popular in the eyes of those who seek to be liberated from any obligation to the one who bestows upon us the gift of life.

Ezekiel was sent among such a people.  Paul stood weak and broken in the continued prophetic voice of proclaiming the Spirit of Jesus to a generation that was not willing to open and listen for a relationship of love with God who has come to save and deliver us from death.  John the Baptist was the greatest of these prophets who came and challenged us to “change your hearts”, to “repent and believe in the good news.” 

Today, our bishops rise from seeming years of quiet listening to make known to our leaders the need to return to a fidelity to God as spoken in our Constitution, our Pledge of Allegiance to our country, our monetary symbols and our songs of patriotic values, such as God Bless America. With our bishops, the more universal prophetic voice of God is heard in the voice and actions of our beloved Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.  Commentator, Glen Beck, makes note that in these days, the whole world is Catholic because if we can get to destroy the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and the Pastors of the Church, then all other churches will be left on their own and stand without the strength of Christ’s presence in His Church.  All other religious foundations will fail and the world will be delivered over to the ruses of man under the bondage of Evil.

THE ANSWER IS A RENEWAL OF FAITH: Faith is more than the Creed we recite on Sunday or the catechesis we give our children and our people in spoken word.  Faith is more than being people of prayer and of the Sacraments.  Faith is a matter of holding a strong and deep relationship with God. 

God’s work, so strong at many times in history becomes weak and aimless not by default of God but by our abandonment of God in faith.  When we move away from God, we close the doors to his interaction in our lives and the destruction begins  Be it Communism or Capitalism, all becomes destructive not because of a philosophy but because of a lack of theology, a lack of placing God at the center of all human thinking and acting. 

Faith which is reduced to a compromise with God reduces God to human value and weakens the freedom of God to work in our broken nature.  In the Gospel, it is clearly stated what has reduced the power of Jesus.  It is the lack of faith. Jesus is reduced to being able to accomplish a miracle only in moments of touching a person who lives in faith.  Repeatedly we hear Jesus say at the moment of a miraculous healing: “your faith has saved you.” 

Jesus is looking for our faith, our relationship of total abandonment to his way, his love, his desire for our lives.  Is there any compromise in your faith? When we placed faith under the priority of human achievement and personal value, we began to create a generation that would no longer long for the ultimate salvation in God. How have we compromised our youth, our lifestyles, our prayer life, the sacredness of Sunday Worship and our Sacramental Life in Jesus, the role of the Church and its authority in our choices of life? When did marriage cease to be a vocation of participating in the creative power of God and sign of the pure espousal love God invites us to?  When has reconciliation become meaningless for the sake of human pride?  We need to return once more to that universal faith that offers the promise of redemption from Evil.

The world needs a major miracle; the Church needs prophets.  We are prophets when we speak and live our faith in joy. We are prophets when our neighbors see us observe the sacredness of the Sabbath. We are prophets when stand strong in our faith commitment and allow Christ to be enthroned as the center of our homes, workplace, public facilities and open displays. 

Let us stop compromising who we are, what we stand for. More than ever now let us fix our eyes on God and plead for his mercy. This is not a matter of simple politics. It’s a matter of what is going on in each of our hearts.  Where are we compromising our faith?   Is the Spirit of God upon us or not?



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