This homily was prepared in the run up to the “Fortnight for Freedom” which took place in late June through July 4th. It also happened to be Father’s Day on Sunday. The readings for that Sunday were:
- Ezekiel 17:22-24
- 2 Corinthians 5:6-10
- Mark 4:26-34
Let me begin by wishing all you dad’s out there a “Happy Father’s Day!” For all of us who still have our dads with us, let’s be sure and let them know in some special way just how thankful we are for all they have done and continue to do for us. For those whose fathers have gone before us, then give thanks to God for the ways they blessed you and your family. And I want to wish Happy Father’s day to you, Fr. __________, for being a spiritual father to this parish and thank you for saying yes to the priesthood.
There will be a special blessing for all fathers after Communion, so please look forward to that and once again – Happy Fathers Day!
“Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” This line opens our second reading from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. These words of exhortation only make sense through the eyes of faith. Our faith tells us we are exiles in this world, awaiting the time we will return to full communion with the Father, Son and Spirit in heaven. Life on this side of heaven is far from ideal and includes periods of struggle and challenges. But St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to walk by faith and not by sight; to be courageous and to live so as to please God in all they do.
My brothers and sisters, these words are as relevant to us now as they were to the Corinthians some 2000 years ago. For 200+ years, our Church and many other faith communities have been able to work in a cooperative fashion with government agencies for the common good of society and the communities in which we live. However, for the past several years, we have seen a slow and steady erosion of the religious freedom that has been a foundational element of this great nation. As a Church, we have been free to practice our faith and provide our services to the communities of which we are a part without interference or coercion from the government. But now we are witnessing events that threaten this most important freedom that is fundamental to our dignity as human beings.
The Second Vatican Council declared “that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups … such that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.” My brothers and sisters, our religious liberty is under attack in many ways and we live at a time in history that demands the kind of courage St. Paul described in today’s second reading.
The HHS Mandate recently put into effect will force most Churches and private businesses to provide employee insurance coverage for contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs and sterilization. The supposed exemption for faith-based organizations is so narrowly written that practically no functioning Church will qualify and individually owned businesses definitely will not qualify. Many Church related organizations and individually owned businesses will soon be forced to violate their consciences, face exorbitant fines or drop their healthcare coverage altogether. While this issue has gotten the most coverage in recent months, it’s just one of many ways our religious liberty is under attack.
The USCCBs’ Migration and Refugee Services provides assistance for victims of human trafficking and has had outstanding results in doing so. But because they won’t provide or refer for contraceptive services which are in violation of Catholic teaching, the federal government has not renewed its contracts with this agency.
Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
Several states have recently passed laws that make it illegal for a Catholic priest to baptize, hear the confession of, celebrate the anointing of the sick with, or preach the word of God to, an undocumented immigrant. Nor can they encourage them to attend Mass or give them a ride to Mass.
My brothers and sisters, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Our Bishops have rightly called the Church to action and that means you and me! Here is an excerpt from a document the Bishop’s recently released called “Our First Most Cherished Liberty”:
“As bishops we seek to bring the light of the Gospel to our public life, but the work of politics is properly that of committed and courageous lay Catholics. We exhort them to be both engaged and articulate in insisting that as Catholics and as Americans we do not have to choose between the two. There is an urgent need for the lay faithful, in cooperation with Christians, Jews, and others, to impress upon our elected representatives the importance of continued protection of religious liberty in a free society.”
Our US Bishops have called for a “fortnight for freedom,” 14 days when across the country we will come together as Church to reflect on and highlight the importance of defending our religious freedom. The fortnight begins this Thursday June 21st and runs through July 4th. All across the country during this fortnight for freedom, our Church will be providing a great hymn of prayer for our country. We need to join in that chorus of prayer.
The Lexington area parishes have planned a series of eight fortnight events. The first will be held this Thursday at Mary Queen. We will close the fortnight as a diocese right here in the Cathedral with Bishop Gainer celebrating Mass on the 4th of July at 10am. Each fortnight event focuses on a specific threat to our religious freedom. We will gain a deeper understanding of the issue and hear about ways we can respond to make a difference.
You might ask, “What can I do. I’m just one person!” In our Gospel today, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds there is. But when sown and nurtured, that seed turns into one of the largest of plants. You aren’t just one person. You are a member of the Catholic Church, the largest faith community on earth. And every day, the Catholic Church feeds more people, houses more people, clothes more people, takes care of more sick people, and educates more people than any other institution in the world. How dare the government tell us we can no longer serve the world in these and many other ways unless we are willing to violate some of our most deeply held beliefs! It’s time to put our mustard seeds together and let God turn them into a mustard plant. It’s time we come together and respond to these threats to our freedom with one Catholic voice!
Participating in these fortnight for freedom events is one very important way we can respond to these threats. On the bottom of page 8 in this week’s bulletin is information about all eight events including the hosting parish and topic to be covered. Talk to your family and get as many of these events on your calendar as you can. Invite others to come with you.
My brothers and sisters, these unjust attacks on our religious liberty must be resisted and rejected – by you and by me. Fr. Frank Provone, head of “Priests for Life” said, “You don’t adapt to injustice, you oppose it!” It’s been said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” We can’t pretend that this is no big deal or that someone else will do something about it. It’s up to you and me.
As St. Paul exhorted the Corinthians, today he exhorts you and me. It’s time for the Church to walk by faith and not by sight. Be of courage my brothers and sisters. I hope to see many of you at the fortnight for freedom events and most especially at the July 4th Mass. May that Mass be a celebration of the freedom God gave us so we can serve him in this life while we anticipate the joy we will find with him in the next.