God fashioned us in his own image so that we might have being. He fashioned us for life, not for death. This is the message we hear from the book of Wisdom today. It is through the life we have from God, from our desire and longing to connect with God and with that divine essence in our lives that propels us in our life of faith, that propels us to desire the new life we receive in our relationship with Jesus.
This life of faith that we have encouraged Paul to become the missionary to the Gentiles, to bring Christ’s Good News to all the world. In his second letter to the Corinthians, we hear about Paul’s passion for the faith and for living out his new life in Christ. Paul extols the Corinthians for their faith, knowledge, and earnestness, but above all by imitating Jesus in his gracious act of sacrificial love. I mentioned to you how so many people I met on the pilgrimage trail in Spain were looking for some sort of meaning and direction in their lives, they were looking to bring their lives of faith to fullness and to greater meaning. So many believers seek to embrace the faith and discipleship in Jesus with a greater embrace, not a more constrained one. Our faith is for the altar, for the mass, for the sacraments of our Church. But our faith is also lived out in our homes, in the streets and the highways, in the workplace and the offices and the schools.
The Fortnight for Freedom that we are currently celebrating as declared to us by the US Catholic Bishops is to be a “national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.” During this 14 day event, we have seen how great models of faith such as John the Baptist, St Thomas More, and St John Fisher stood up to the injustices of the governments and authorities of their day. Bishops across our country, including our own Bishop Joseph Latino, have filed lawsuits against the government in opposition to the unjust mandate of the US Department of Health and Human Services, requiring Catholic institutions to violate our moral laws by providing contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs at no-cost to members of our health plans. Our Bishops are also concerned about how the federal government is defining religious institutions through the exemptions that it is willing to grant. It deems parishes to be religious institutions, but not Catholic universities, hospitals, food pantries, publishing house, or even the Society of St Vincent DePaul and the Knights of Columbus. We see this in direct violation of the first freedom we have in the Bill of Rights, which is the freedom of religious liberty. When the government tries to decide what religion is and what the proper work of the Church is, then this freedom of religion is threatened.
I had read an article earlier in the week by someone who was very critical of the Bishops’ motives in the Fortnight for Freedom that we are recognizing in our Church, with the prayer, action, and education of this time period to bring about awareness of our religious freedom that is under threat. The author of this article claimed that we are becoming a Church of the few, and not the Church of the many, that this is not an example of the Christian love that the Church claims it is bringing to the world. Yet, I beg to differ. As Paul extolled the virtues which the Christian community in Corinth embodied, he also called that community to makes sacrifices in order to help support the Church in Jerusalem. Our Church does reach out in love and charity, but we do so in the context of God’s holy teachings and commandments. We do not abandon the immigrant or the poor, the sick or the prisoner, and we don’t abandon the truth of God.
The woman afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years reached out and touched Jesus' garment out of her faith – and Jesus healed her due to her great faith. Jairus, the synagogue official, came to Jesus with faith, knowing that Jesus indeed would be able to heal his daughter, and it was out of that faith that Jesus raised her from the dead. Today, let us come to God in faith, knowing that he will help us stand firm in our desire to continue to practice our faith as disciples of Jesus through the religious freedom we have been accorded since the founding of our nation. We pray that during this Fortnight for Freedom that we can be true to the Gospel, true to the faith that has brought us this far.