Sunday, October 2, 2011

Life and Persecution

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

As we hear these words, the culture that surrounds us would certainly agree – we Christians ought to think about these things. But if do these things, if we do what is true, do what is honorable, do what is just or pure, we will not be supported. We will be persecuted.

As we celebrate Respect Life Sunday today, we of course draw attention to the need to pray and work for a greater respect for human life in our city, state, country, and world. We need to pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, contraceptive use, and the death penalty. But we also need to pray for greater respect for life in general – for the poor, the sick, immigrants and those suffering from discrimination, prejudice, abuse or neglect. And the organization that is doing the most to help all of those people is the Catholic Church.

Worldwide we run:
5,400 hospitals
16,000 homes for disabled or chronically ill
22,000 orphanages and child care centers
65,000 Counseling and Rehabilitation centers
200,000 Schools caring for over 55 million children
All of that in addition to the over 9 million AIDS patients and hundreds of millions of homeless, starving, sick, and suffering persons that are cared for in various other outreach ministries throughout the world.

It’s incredible to think of the positive impact the Church has on the world today. And yet, she is persecuted by our culture and media, and in some places her people even suffering physical violence. And yet this is part of our calling as Christians, as Catholics. Jesus Christ, Truth, Justice and Purity itself, came among us and was nailed on a cross. How are we, servants of the King, to expect better treatment that the King of kings Himself?

This chasuble that I wear today stands as a reminder of that reality that as Catholics we will be persecuted. On the front we see two lines, not for design sake but to form a pillar in the center - a reminder of the pillar on which Our Blessed Lord was scourged. And on the back, a cross to remind us that each of us is called to shoulder our crosses, especially those forced on us by the world around us. 

Reality is that our culture is fighting against the Church because some in our society want the freedom to do whatever they want, to make their own rules, and the Church is standing in their way reminding them that such freedom leads to perdition. True freedom is following in the way of the God who created us and sustains us. And so they persecute us. Right now in our country, efforts are being made by some government leaders to force Catholic Hospitals, School and other Institutions to pay for abortions, contraceptives, sterilizations, and a whole host of items which the Church has perpetually understood as moral evils. To give in is to abandon truth. To stand our ground is to risk being shut down entirely.

I don’t mean to be political. I mean to be realistic. And reality is that the world around us is fighting to have us stay quiet or close up shop. But as St. Paul reminded the Philippians, he so reminds us today - God is with us. He is with us throughout this struggle and, especially throughout this ‘Respect Life Month,’ we are called to pray and trust in His ways. We pray for an end to the taking of innocent life through abortion, euthanasia, and other acts of violence. We pray for a greater respect for all human life and the dignity of every person. We pray for the conversion of those who fight against the Church and those who stand for truth and justice. And finally, we pray for ourselves, that we might have the grace to see in each person we encounter not someone different than us but a fellow brother or sister in the Lord.