FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM 2013
OPENING MASS: ST. AGNES CATHEDRAL
?For the second year in a row, we are beginning a Fortnight for Freedom across our land. These are days when we are united in prayer and fasting in defense and protection of religious freedom for all persons and religious institutions in our country. Ours is a witness that unhesitatingly and unambiguously depends on God. It is a witness that we make, knowing that, in this world, the God who created us and his Son who redeemed us charge us with our responsibility for the wellbeing of society, a society that without God would end in self destruction. And so we pray. And so we fast. And so we speak. And so we witness that the fruit of Godís love might not be extinguished by powers that wish to promote a view of human life, etsi Deus non daretur.
?While this effort of ours may seem fledgling to many, that does not matter. It is of a piece with Godís plan of salvation. It finds its source in the teaching of Jesus and itsrightness as part of the faithful witness of the Church for more than two millennia.
?When Jesus went up to Jerusalem for what would be his last celebration of Passover, the Jerusalem elites were already troubled about him. On the one hand his words and actions were making him popular. On the other hand that popularity often seemed to threaten their power, their control, and their leadership.
?Two groups, usually antithetical to each other, became co-conspirators plotting how they might entrap Jesus in speech. Their question was aimed at destroying his reputation and his influence for the good. It was the ruse of those who were afraid, afraid to lose their power, afraid to let the truth come forth, determined to manipulate the crowd so that they could continue to dominate and determine the lives of the people for whom Jesus meant newness of life and freedom: freedom to live their lives according to Godís word, Godís law.
?Jesus takes their plot and stands it on its head, not by meeting power with power but by moving beyond theirown self preoccupation. He does much more than turn their question upside down. Hr reminds them Ė and us Ė and all who listen - that the importance of Caesar is relativized when placed in the perspective of God and what belongs to God! Caesar is never absolute. Caesar cannot prevail over God.
?And that is the message we proclaim this evening. Human life with all its rights and duties, in all its inviolable dignity and sovereignty, belongs to God. The power of any human institution, especially the state, is limited. It can never claim any power or exercise any force that contradicts or seeks to circumscribe what belongs to God. What belongs to God is simple and uncontradictable: the human person; the right to life and to live according to Godís law; the right to profess that faith and to live according to what God calls us to do in service to Him and to all humankind; the right to honor God and fulfill Godís law.
?Unlike Caesar, in our country the image of the current President is not stamped on any coin. Caesar made claims that coerced people and attacked religion and tried to destroy the faith of Christís disciples because the followers of Jesus refused to place the gods of Rome ahead of the Son of God and redeemer of the world. Think of Peter and Paul, Ignatius of Antioch, the Scytillan martyrs and the martyrs of Rome. That early heroic is a reminder to us that no modern Caesar can be accommodated by us when he attempts to impose his rules on our consciences and tries to force our institutions to conform and be participant in practices that contradict Godís moral law and our consciences as members of Christís Body, His Church.
?As good citizens, we always pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. But that good commitment to a good society can never be corrupted by asking us to compromise what belongs to God: the human person, the right to freedom of religious faith and conviction, the right to practice that faith unencumbered by legal restrictions and, man made rules that contradict human dignity and coerce us to conform to practices contrary to our conscience and to our faith.
?In these next two weeks, our Fortnight for Freedom will demonstrate how the followers of Jesus, this community of communion, gives witness to who we are by what we do. We will be inspired by the examples of the saints we honor these days: St John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Thomas the Apostle, the roman martyrs, St Irenaeus, Sts John Fisher and Thomas More. We will be one in acts of penance, fasting, alms giving. We will be constant in prayer. We will join with one another in our rally on June 29 at St. John the Baptist High School in East Islip. And we will be men and women of hope and confidence that come from our trust in the God of Life who is with us and will guide us.
?How will we accomplish this? By heeding the call of St. Paul we have just heard. We have taken off the old self:the old clothes of power and human exploitation; the arrogance of those who would dominate and impose their distorted vision of human dignity and freedom of religion. We put on the new self! We put on kindness, humility, patience,Öand over all these we put on love: love for every human being, every woman and her child, every elderly person and their peers, every person of faith and of no faith, every human heart that yearns to worship God. And, with Godís help, in our hospitals, our schools, our Catholic Charities, we will continue to serve our neighbors as brothers and sisters of Jesus, all children of the one God.
?Ours is never a witness born of hatred or destruction. It is the witness of those who let the peace of Christ control our hearts because the Word of Christ dwells in our hearts, because, whatever we do, in word or in deed, we shall do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him
?My dear friends, we embark on this Fortnight for Freedom with strength that comes from above. May God be praised and may we be one in proclaiming his truth and giving witness that God alone is sovereign. He alonereigns on earth as in heaven. And we are his witnesses to the Glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.