Homily for Thursday, 21 June 2012: Ultimate Allegiance
Day One of Fortnight for Freedom
Sirach 48:1–14 / Matthew 6: 7–15
We need the spirit of Elijah today, and the double-portion that was poured out on Elisha. I am hopeful that is happening as our bishops are rising in unified voice about the erosion of commitment, and even respect, for religious truth in contemporary society. We in parishes across our country need to be listening to our leaders –– not those jockeying for power in the political sphere, but the leaders our Lord has given us in the Church who teach the true Christian Faith.
The heart of today’s Gospel is The Lord’s Prayer. The one thing we would do well to notice today is the phrase: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.... We are reminded that our highest concern needs to be what God wants. Our highest allegiance is to King Jesus. Before we are Americans, we belong to the Church –– the Church that trumps every other allegiance and spans every other identity on the face of the earth.
Before we ask, “What is popular? .... Before we ask, “What is convenient?” ..... Before we ask, “What is pragmatic for the country?” .... Before any of that, we who belong to Jesus need to be asking, “What does it mean to give witness to what our Faith says is true?” That is part of what it means to pray, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Starting today and going through our national Independence Day on July 4, the bishops of the Church are calling us to a Fortnight of Freedom. Beyond a neat way to use the word “fortnight” in today’s world (it means “two weeks”, from an Old English usage of “fourteen nights” –– thus “fortnight”), this is an opportunity for the Faithful to unite in a powerful witness of our conviction that Faith based on Truth is meant to go beyond being “personally meaningful” or “expressed within the walls of our parishes.” We believe that we are to live the Truth we believe.... in every arena of life, and that Truth is ultimately good for everyone. We are calling our government, and all who will listen, to support our historic Bill of Rights for religious freedom (and not just freedom to “worship”) –– the freedom to witness openly to the Truth we believe and to live totally according to the convictions of our Faith.
The Catholic Church teaches that this goes beyond the Bill of Rights. Note these phrases from Vatican II’s “Declaration on Religious Liberty” (Dignitatis Humanae): “....the human person has a right to religious freedom.... No one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publically, whether alone or in association with others within due limits.... This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right.”
Neither the Vatican Council nor the bishops are saying that everyone in the country must abide by the teachings of the Church (which is the “spin” that much of media tries to put on this). That, too, would be wrong coercion. But as our culture seems to have an eroding understanding of Christian Truth, it is also wrong coercion to allow laws or even public opinion to restrict free expression, in both word and action, for what it means to practice Catholic Faith.
As we enter this Fortnight for Freedom, we are asked to pray. We are asked to be proactive with our voice in the legislative process –– let Senators and Congressmen know we are concerned and expect support and protection of the historic freedom of religion. We are asked to give the Church’s perspective to the Faithful (and I hope I have helped do that here).
Again, we do not primarily do this because we are Americans (as wonderful as that privilege is). We do this, first of all, because we follow Jesus Christ, and our Lord has taught us to pray: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
If you want to study this more, visit the USCCB website for Fortnight for Freedom: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/