Sunday, June 30, 2013
Homily - "Freedom is linked with virtue"
"For freedom Christ set us free". Today's readings, especially these words from St. Paul, are timely as we approach the Fourth of July because they focus on freedom. They give us an excellent opportunity to reflect on freedom and how important it is to our country and in our faith. Freedom is one of the most refreshing and attractive gifts of our Christian faith. It is the ability to know what is good and to live it. We struggle so much with what St. Paul describes as the "yoke of slavery"; so, when we encounter freedom, it is an overwhelming experience.
If we look back at how our Founding Fathers viewed freedom, we see that they linked freedom with virtue. Virtue means making a habit of doing what is good. It means living Christ! We were founded as a Christian nation. George Washington said, "Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people". John Adams: "Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without the soul." And, Benjamin Franklin: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters".
With this in mind, we look back on the historic events of last week. We look at them and ask, 'are we living true freedom? Are we promoting freedom? Virtue?' There are some Yes's and there are some No's.
Yes, said the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) on President Obama calling for a world without nuclear weapons, something the Church has fought for for a long time. The USCCB also praised the President for his vigorous leadership in peace between Israel and Palestine.
Yes, on the immigration reform the Senate passed. The bishops are now calling on the House of Representatives to do the same.
No, on the issue of abortion. You might have seen the fiasco in Texas about the bill that would have ended abortions after 20 weeks. A senator and a raucous crowd of citizens filibustered the bill. The President offered support for the filibuster which even one of his well-known supporters called his support of late-term abortions "sick". I think it's sick in general that we can kill our own babies. One out of every four babies in our country is prevented from having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
No, per the rulings of the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. This is mainly because they promote vice, not virtue. Brothers and sisters, God has revealed throughout Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium that homosexual acts are sinful. The Justices even laid out the groundwork to one day take away our freedom of speech to stand up for God and what we believe. And, this includes saying that we love the people involved; we love people with same-sex attraction, but not homosexual acts.
No, per the final revision to the HHS mandate which was issued late on Friday and hasn't changed much since its first draft. This mandate would force religious institutions like the Catholic Church to go against their consciences in providing contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients to their employees. It would take away our religious freedom which is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
So, how did we get to this point? How have we gotten so far away from the freedom our founders intended in so many ways? I liken it to being in the ocean, and the undercurrent takes us so far away from where we were. The undercurrent in our culture is fear, and it is very strong. People are so afraid to go against the tide, to go against what's popular and politically correct. It really is what St. Paul calls the "yoke of slavery". We are slaves to approval and popularity. An example would be the now-popular phrase on certain issues, "get with the 21st century". What does this mean? Does it mean we forget 20 centuries of Christian virtue? Like, 'forget freedom, we've moved into license'. St. Paul steers us away from seeing freedom as license, a result of relativism, by saying that we can't just do whatever we want. We can't misuse the gift of freedom for an "opportunity of the flesh".
How do live true freedom as Americans and as Catholics? It's what we hear from St. Paul: "live by the Spirit". Freedom is to know what is good and to choose it. The Spirit leads us to know the Truth and to live it. It leads us to know what us true, what is good, what is just, and what is right...not just what is popular. Our Lord said, "the truth will set you free".
Finally, my private intention at this Mass - and we should always have an intention on our hearts when we receive Holy Communion - is for our country. My prayer will be for the conversion of our hearts where it is needed...that our No's become Yes's...that we turn from relativism to truth...from flesh to Spirit...from vice to virtue...and from slavery to freedom.