You are witnesses to these things.
By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.
I appointed you to go and fear fruit that will remain.
Between now and Ascension Day, we hear the Lord Jesus say all these things to us. You are my chosen witnesses.
We are. We. The sons and daughters of the Church. We. You and I, dear brothers and sisters, are a we. A family.
We are united not by natural birth, but by divine choice. Not by flukish circumstances, or by personal preferences, or by common interests in sports, playing cards, politics, or music. No, we are united by the free gift of God’s grace.
We did not choose Christ. Christ chose us, and made us us, made us a family of faith.
He made a universal communion that spans every human frontier. To be Catholic is to be a brother or sister to other people of every race. We have the right, we have the duty, we have the solemn and holy privilege to call the black, the yellow, the white, the red—to call everyone brother and sister.
God made us a universal human family with the living—and with the dead. Who are my best friends? My best friends are the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Therese, St. Ignatius, and St. John Vianney. I don’t need a bleeding special cellphone plan to holler at my peeps all day, every day. All I have to do is pray.
Speaking of which, the Lord made us a family of prayer. Prayer according to the Holy Spirit; prayer according to the divine will. We human beings can invent a lot of nifty things, like remote-control garage-door openers, programmable coffee-makers, and wireless iPod synchers—but we cannot invent prayer. God gives us prayer. And He has given us the prayer of His Church. We pray the way the Church prays, the way Jesus taught us to pray, the way the saints have prayed. We pray in common; it makes us us. Even the holy hermit who lives in solitary silence in his remote mountain cell—he prays with us, and we pray with him—together, the Church praying.
And we share a common way of life. Not in the surface details, not in the practical particulars—but in the central core of who we are. In how we make decisions, how we form our habits, how we know what to be glad we did and what to regret.
In other words, God has given us Catholics a common moral life. It doesn’t mean we are perfect. To the contrary, our family is made up of sinners. But sinners who know the difference between virtue and vice, who hope for forgiveness and for better days to come.
How? How did our loving Father in heaven manage to bring this off? This almost-unbelievable feat of uniting a billion human beings together into His family?
Well, only God Himself knows the whole story of how He has done it. But this much shines forth very clearly: God unites us through His Vicar on earth, the Pope, and through all the bishops who are in communion with the Pope.
Okay. Yawn, Father. We know all this. Who made this the time for Catholic Church 101?
At sunset on June 21, we will begin the Memorial of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. The priest wears a red chasuble that day because these saints died as…? Martyrs. King Henry VIII beheaded them because they refused to abandon the Catholic religion.
Okay, so the evening of June 21, the vigil of the Memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More. Then, two weeks later, on July 4, we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the…? Right. June 21 to July 4. Our American bishops have declared this a “Fortnight for Freedom.”
Why must we pray and fast this summer especially? Maybe some of you have heard about this already. The Church in the United States faces a crisis, a crisis that has built steadily for some time now.
We American Catholics participate in working for the common good of our country in many, many ways. We know we have a Christian duty to do all we can to help people. In everything we do, God’s infallible law guides us.
We face a crisis when civil laws conflict with God’s laws. God has laid down clear laws about the most sacred pursuit in this world, namely marriage and the business of giving life to the next generation. Serious conflicts between God’s laws and certain civil laws—some already in force, some pending—conflicts in this area have produced a crisis for our Church.
So I figured I would give a series of homilies during the Easter season, explaining one sentence. Here’s the sentence: We cannot co-operate with evil, even if the civil law stipulates that we must. Four homilies explaining this sentence.
Gosh, Father. That seems a little heavy. Four more weeks of homilies explaining one single sentence?
No. Actually just three more. You just read the first one. We cannot co-operate. We.
“You are my witnesses,” says the Lord.