Monday, June 16, 2014

Freedom to Serve?
Ever since Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25:40), Christians have been feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and the imprisoned.  Indeed, both corporal and spiritual works of mercy have defined the Church's mission for centuries, and Western civilization has particularly benefited from this gratuitous Christian witness.

But the question raised by the radical secularism of our time is whether followers of Jesus should be allowed to serve others in accord with their well-formed consciences, and in his Name. 

In the face of such a dramatic question and such a rapid turn of events in American history, many people have simply yawned.  Indifferent to whether the government redefines freedom of religion as mere freedom to worship, they naively ask, "Why can't we all just get along?... And why can't the Church keep out of politics?"  Others have used the issue of religious liberty as yet another bludgeon against Christianity, in general, and the Catholic Church in particular.  They resent Christians for resisting the "truths" which radical secularism want to impose, and they insistently question, "Why don't people just keep their religion a private affair, so we can maintain alleged neutrality in the public square?"  In other words, it's OK for the federal government to force its will upon the people because that's it's job, but it's no longer OK for Christians to follow teachings handed down from Jesus through his Church.

For the third consecutive year, the U.S. Bishops have invited the lay faithful to two weeks of prayer, penance and study about religious liberty.  In 2012, the movement started with "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty", a rousing call action which reminded the faithful that "an unjust law is no law at all."  This impassioned document was a bold effort to shed light upon the ongoing efforts of the federal government to restrict and redefine religious liberty.  It was an invitation to those with principled religious convictions to resist the agenda being imposed on believers by executive fiat.  Last year, the Bishops and Catholic Conferences across the country also assembled an array of resources and events, supporting a second Fortnight for Christ and for all people of good will.

This year, the issue has been re-framed a bit to help point out the practical implications of the issue:  "Freedom to Serve" is not only the theme for 2014, but also the sub-plot and the pointed question at hand.  Do we think that communities best served by having only a federal government to rely upon for services and assistance, or do we think that communities are best served when the love of God motivates fellow citizens to reach out to their proverbial brothers and sisters?

In the Name of Jesus, let's each look for a way to pray, to do penance, and to study about these fundamental issues from June 21st through July 4th.  Here are a couple suggestions for your consideration:
  • Check out the following video link from the USCCB. 
  • Explore the home website,
  • Sign up for a "Daily Dose of Dignitatis Humanae," and commit to reading Vatican II's statement on religious liberty (compliments of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Conference of Illinois).
The time for prayerful action is now.  Let's not tie our own hands and so find ourselves asking the unenviable question, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?"