If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily… Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it, says the Lord. (Luke 9:23-24)
At the end of the Fortnight for Freedom last year, the Archbishop of Philadelphia said: “Religious liberty is not an end in itself. We defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.” We need religious freedom because we need God.
You may remember that we prayed and fasted last summer, for two weeks between the feast of St. Thomas More and Independence Day. We prayed and fasted that the enemies of the Church might receive the grace to repent—and thereby avert a legal crisis in our country. We, the Catholic Church—we simply cannot condone the use of artificial contraceptives. We cannot condone acts of sodomy, unnatural sex acts between members of the same sex. When we hear the phrase “gay marriage,” we cannot take it seriously. Also, we insist on our freedom to embrace our brothers and sisters, regardless of their immigration status.
We prayed and fasted last summer for peace in our beloved country, for an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. We prayed that the United States could continue to flourish as a nation where Christ’s Church can freely proclaim the Gospel and the moral discipline which genuine love demands.
For the sake of peace, for the sake of stability and prosperity, we pray that crises of religious freedom won’t happen. As we discussed last summer, St. Thomas More went to his death heroically, a martyr, a witness to the truth. But up until the end, he prayed for a compromise, for a way out, for friendship with the king.
Also last summer we talked about the Mexican Martyrs, and how they died in a technocratic persecution, leaving this earth in a blaze of glory, singing Viva Cristo Rey! But, until the end, the Mexican martyrs prayed for peace rather than martyrdom. The priests who were executed prayed that the soldiers assigned to shoot them, some of whom they had known as their altar boys—the priests did not want the soldiers to commit such a sin, so they prayed for peace instead.
So this summer, too, we pray: May God in His Providence spare us a crisis. May the enemies of the Church think again. May they reflect on their patently erroneous opinions.
The idea that poison a woman puts in her womb to make it not work—the idea that this counts as “medicine?” No. Please re-think, Dept. of Health and Human Services. Please re-think, and start over with this particular part of universal health care. Artificial contraception does not accomplish the goal of medicine. Artificial contraception does not help someone achieve health. Artificial contraception poisons.
The idea that two people of the same sex can “marry” each other? State legislators, please re-think. Judges, please re-think. Please start over, with a careful consideration of what marriage means—the only thing that marriage can mean. Two men? Two women? No.
So please re-think, state legislators. Please re-think, federal judges. Please re-think, Mr. President. People who struggle with the temptation to do evil things need encouragement to follow Jesus. They do not need empty platitudes about supposed “equality” where no equality is even conceivably possible.
And there are other legislators that we have to ask to re-think. Dear legislators who don’t like having people with different skin tones in our towns, speaking other languages–please re-think. If you intend to vote about immigration policy without compassion in your heart for all the human beings affected, re-think!
Last year we prayed and fasted for two weeks that a religious-freedom crisis would be averted. This year we have to pray and fast again, because the situation has only gotten worse. We just want tolerance for our point-of-view on these matters–a point-of-view that does happen to have countless centuries of unbroken human history behind it.
We Christians do not pray and fast during the Fortnight for Freedom that anyone would be forced to do anything. The Gospel does not and cannot work by force. We pray solely that it will always be legal to believe in Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the Church in the United States.
Maybe someone thinks: This is just the paranoia of religious extremists. There is no real crisis looming. But in fact the crisis has been brought about by the irrational zeal of extremists who, out of ignorance, despise the Church. The Church has basically been minding Her own business, preaching the Gospel, celebrating the sacraments, educating the young, taking care of the poor, the sick, and the dying, and practicing patriotism. The Church did not provoke this crisis.
For 2,000 years Christians have said to Caesar over and over again, “We want to be good citizens. But we belong to the chaste Christ, the generous-hearted Christ, the crucified Christ! We belong to Him more than we belong to you, Caesar.” We Christians have been saying this for two millennia. Then we get thrown into the coliseum and devoured by lions, and we sing while the lions eat us.
So we don’t really have a crisis of our own. We stand firm in the love of Christ. But we pray and fast like the martyrs of old prayed and fasted—for peace. Let’s pray and fast from now till our first Independence-Day hamburger. We do not fear to suffer for Christ. But peace would be better, tolerance would be better. A United States where the Church is free to be Herself: we pray and fast for that.