Over the last few weeks there has been much discussion, arguing, complaining and rolling of eyes concerning the US Bishop’s call for the Fortnight of Freedom. At the core of what the Bishop’s were and continuing to call for, is the center of our Old Testament reading and Gospel for this Sunday.
Our readings today, are a clarion call to remember who we are. On the day of our Baptism, the Bishop, Priest or Deacon, anointed you with Holy Chrism as prophet, priest and king. This was not just to carry on a tradition that we have being doing for over 3,500 years…yes, the Jews also anointed their prophets, priests, and kings. That anointing upon the crownof our skull was given to strengthen you personally to live out the office and dignity you have been given in Christ Jesus through the Church. Where God guides, he provides.
A prophet is most of the time not one who is able to see the future but the one steeped in the Word of God, safeguarding and proclaiming the Word of the Lord as He has passed it down to us his beloved. The prophet is the one who shouts out that justice, freedom, and dignity are being violated. They think and live what they believe. The construct or manner that informs us how we are to think and live is called a philosophy. Everyone lives by a philosophy – whether they realize it or not.
Did you know that as Catholics, we have a particular lifestyle or philosophy that we are called to live by? We are not meant to be accidental or incidental Catholics but people who are deliberately Catholic in all areas of our life. Our coworkers, friends and family are supposed to see us make the sign of the cross and offer grace before we eat at work, in school, or at the pool! We are supposed to look different. That is why we:
- Receive ashes on Ash Wednesday: You’re not supposed to wipe it off. It is supposed to provide a small humiliation.
- Eat fish on Friday’s even outside of Lent; or we offer an acceptable and equivalent penance (See Code of Canon Law 1249 – 1253 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church pars.1438 and 2043)
A Christian life is not just loving our neighbor with random acrts of kindness but it is how we approach life, how we engage the culture, and most of all, yes, even how we think. The intellect to our Lord is extremely important. So important that He restated that famous Old Testament command from Deuteronomy and said instead,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
As Frank Sheed once wrote, “To have a Catholic intellect is to see what the Church sees. To see what the Church sees is to look upon the Universe and see what the Church sees; and the enormous advantage of this is that the Universe the Church sees is the real Universe, because she is the Church of God” who was promised by our Lord that He would infallibly lead the Church into all truth. We not only see the planets, stars and galaxies, we see:
- That there are no creation myths because nothing is created in the myths – they use what is already there…so do we.
- Through our Jewish brethren we learn that creation was ex nihilo He created out of nothing. This was so radical that Philo the Jewish philosopher was thought to be crazy and insane when he spoke about this subject.
- When we look up at the sky we don’t wonder who else is out there, there could be life out there I guess, but we stand in awe that our Lord created the universe just for us. Why did He do it? Because He could and thought we would enjoy it.
It is crystal clear that the majority of us here at St. Mary’s have Catholic shaped wills – we love, generally, the way Catholics ought to. The over 180 activities and charitable outreaches are irrefutable evidence that we deliberately choose to love our neighbor. At the same time, I wonder if I can say we have Catholic intellects. I think, when we all look upon creation we see what everyone else in the world sees with some intellectual post-its taught to us by our faith. Our vision, what we see and believe, pretty much is what everyone else does because the same influences teach us – the newspaper, periodicals, lunch-time discussions, internet, Oprah, Glee, Modern Family or whatever other popular television show is on this week. We have not conformed our minds to what the Church teaches and, therefore, do not see reality. We call health of the soul sanctity while health of the intellect is called sanity.
The fact is, as I listen to Catholics discuss this issue of religious freedom and healthcare, I hear a lot of insanity. Very few of us have any idea what we are talking about. Don’t get me wrong! We have formed our intellects by the talk shows, and articles we read but we are starting in the wrong place. What does the Church teach and why it chooses to say what it does IS the starting point. The Church teaches that everyone deserves affordable healthcare, period. The Church teaches that those who have, should reasonably assist those who have not, period. But there are deeper and more fundamental issues that must be addressed in this legislation! At the core is the freedom for a religion to follow its own religious teachings. The Catholic Church within reason is always going to support other religions to protect their beliefs even if they might be wrong. Why? Because it is better for someone to choose wrongly than to force them to do what is true.
How do we start then to form our Catholic intellects? I hate to say it but it cannot be done through YouTube. You cannot watch a 30 minute video for us to form our Catholic intellects. It requires work and lots of it. Let me also say that we need to stop reading commentators and start reading the source text, which by the way, for the Church, is online at www.vatican.va. The best argument I have heard about not studying what we believe though, is that we do not have enough time. That is a great and reasonable answer. However, if that is true, then we must have the humility to conform our decisions –whether we understand the teachings or not – to the Magisterium of the Church who is incapable of erring in faith and morals.
Now, I agree with all of you listening to me know and who are thinking, “Church has told me that I have a right to follow my conscience!” I not only agree, I demand that you must follow it. I think if I took a poll, most of us would say that to follow my conscience is to do what I think is correct. At first glance, that seems reasonable, but, then one should ask three questions:
- First, how do I know that what I believe is correct?
- Secondly, who taught me that it was correct?
- And, lastly, how do you know that the ones who taught me are correct?
We are again back to forming our Catholic intellect. Our Bishops are the successors to the Apostles. They are the guardians of the infallible teaching office of the Church. Together, which is unprecedented in US history the Bishops are standing arm-in-arm having told us that the current legislation is morally unjust and violates the most basic principles of human dignity and US law…our religious freedom. It is a moral issue, they more than have the right to discuss it and bind us to the truth of it.
Finally, it is not enough to know. Knowledge requires action. The intellect informs the will how to choose rightly. Sadly, our Bishop asked us here at St. Mary’s to stand together with him and all the other Bishops for an hour of prayer over the last two Thursdays. Of the 9,116 parishioners about 120 of us gathered for a total of two hours over two weeks. That is 1.3 percent of the parish. [Hear long pause…]
Queen Esther told her uncle Mordecai that she would not intervene with the King over the edict that the Jews could not worship their God in the manner prescribed by Holy Scriptures. Modrecai responded to Esther by saying,
For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Esther responded with 3 days of prayer and fasting and an entire people was saved with a simple request of the King.
We need to inform ourselves on what is actually at stake which includes a great deal of unconscionable actions veiled as medical procedures and preventive care, but most of all, if for nothing else, our freedom to live by the tenants of our faith. And friends, we need to see the reality of what is at stake. It is hard to conceive or imagine that the US has allowed itself to put into this position. But who knows, maybe we were born for such a time as this. And maybe, just maybe, we are here to participate through prayer, fasting and our civic duties to help the US realize its dream of being the land of the free.
 Sheed, Frank. Theology and Sanity., page 3