This gospel ends with one of the most convicting, chilling questions that Jesus Christ ever asks in Sacred Scripture: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” And what is this parable about? You know what? I don’t have to tell you what this homily is about because St. Luke tells us flat out: “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” That’s a quote. I’m not making it up. And Jesus asks that question he asks like he’s really wondering whether or not he’s going to find real faith when he comes again. What is real faith? Real faith prays without ceasing. Real faith suffers for what it believes. Real faith defends itself when it comes under attack. And in our time, we find our freedom to live a Christian life under attack.
This is the third of the 4th week that we speak about church social teaching, and this weekend concentrates on religious freedom.
What do we mean when we say the phrase, “Religious Freedom”? I mean, if someone were to ask you the random question whether or not you supported religious freedom, the chances are you would say, “Yes.” But what are we really talking about? Does it mean simply the right to worship the way we want? Or is it broader than this? Does it mean that we should be free to create laws based on morality, or maybe it is the freedom to escape the shackles of religion so that we might do as we please? I hope this last possibility sounds wrong to you, but that is precisely how modernists are defining the right to religious freedom. For them, it isn’t the freedom to worship as we would like, it is rather the freedom to be free from religion.
The Declaration of Independence declares that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to religious freedom was considered so important that it was simply understood that it was the first among rights. It was the right that established life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. James Madison, one of the chief architects of the Founding, described religious freedom as “the most sacred of all property.” Our nation was essentially established by Christians who did not want the government to interfere with which religion you decided to have. The “Separation of Church and State”–which is not a principle found in the Declaration or the Constitution by the way–is meant to protect the various churches from harassment by the state. But more and more, atheists and enemies of religion are pushing religion so much to the margins that they are redefining this “separation of church and state” to mean that the only right that religions have is to worship as they please: “but we had better not see any evidence of your religion anywhere else or we will smash it.”
(Following paragraph from an article): During the signing of Texas’ “Merry Christmas Bill” just a couple of months ago, Gov. Rick Perry (R) made a rather shocking claim: “Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion,” Perry declared at the State Capitol building in Austin before signing HB 308, which allows public schools to display scenes and symbols of “traditional winter holidays.” “People of faith too often feel they can’t express their faith publicly. And if they dare display it, they find themselves under attack from individuals and organizations that have nothing to do with them or their communities for that matter,” Perry continued, nodding toward a group of Kountze High School cheerleaders, who had come to show support after winning a landmark case where a state district judge allowed them to display Bible verses on banners during football games. The new law, which will go into effect in Texas schools in September, allows schools to have religious displays as long as more than one religion is being represented (or there’s a secular symbol next to a display of one religion). The bill also allows teachers to say things like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy hannukah.”
The problem is why making laws like this is even necessary. Why is it possible for people to be fired for wishing somebody “Merry Christmas” during the holidays?
Why is it that in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities was forced to stop finding adoptive homes for foster children because it could not place children with same-sex partners?
Why is it that states have tried to strip pharmacists of their licenses because of the pharmacist’s religious obligation not to provide abortion-causing drugs?
Why is it that in a vote of 8-3, The San Antonio city council just passed a law that bars from political office or employment anyone who holds the position that same-sex marriage is against God’s plan–really? It was passed on the basis that the people who hold such views discriminate against gays. At the same time, of course, this law completely discriminates against those who have traditional Christian views and it utterly violates religious freedom, making a very dangerous precedent for anyone holding those values.
Why is it that certain religions are exempt from getting into Obamacare and mainstream Christians and Jews are not? Muslims, for example, believe that health insurance is ‘haraam,’ or forbidden; because they liken the ambiguity and probability of insurance to gambling. This belief excludes them from any of the requirements, mandates, or penalties set forth in the bill. Other excluded groups include Amish, Native Americans, and Christian Scientists.” If you are a Christian hospital or other institution who does not support abortion because You believe it is murder, you are still forced into Obamacare. No exemption. Really? Really?
In the last five years, private Catholic schools (not public) in Quebec, Canada have been forbidden from teaching Catholic courses on religion and morality. Instead, they have been forced to teach the “secular” and “neutral” world religions course designed by the government. Parents and schools seeking exemption from the course based on religious freedom have brought their cases to the country’s highest court, but have consistently failed in their bid. Quebec continues to go to great lengths to distance itself from its Catholic heritage, forcing its citizens to follow suit. Quebec has most recently proposed a controversial Charter of Values that would forbid public employees, from judges down to daycare workers, from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols. Culturally, we are not far behind them, I’m afraid.
My friends, I could cite you thousands of cases like these. It isn’t necessary. But my God, we need to wake up.
The enemies of religion are, in the name of protecting their freedom, imposing their beliefs on me. They have a religion too–their religion is atheism. Did you know that atheism is really a religion when you think about it. I mean, it takes faith to be an atheist. Can they prove there is no God? No, they can’t. So they believe there is no God. And they base their actions on a belief. Well, that makes atheism a religion in my book. A religion with no spirit. And their religion is taking over this country. They say that we cannot legislate morality or make laws based on Christian morality, so while they say that from one side of their mouth they make laws establishing THEIR religion with the other side of their mouth. It should not be tolerated. This trend should be fought with every means at our disposal.
Some of you would rather not hear a homily about what seems to be a political topic. Let me respond by saying that I wish to God that I weren’t giving this homily. But what happens when it becomes illegal for me to say the things that I am saying now? What would you think about this homily then? The fact is that our government is making traditional Christian believers into second-class citizens, and from that spot, it will turn us criminals. Then, I suppose it will be time to separate those who have faith from those who do not. Catholicism once flourished, for example, in Ireland. The Penal Laws, established first in the 1690s, assured the Church of England control of political, economic and religious life. The Mass, ordination of Catholic priests and the presence in Ireland of Catholic Bishops were all banned, although some did carry on secretly. Catholic schools were also banned, as were all voting franchises. Violent persecution also resulted, leading to the torture and execution of many Catholics, both clergy and laity. In France—once considered the most Catholic country in the world and the defender of the faith–during the French Revolution the world looked on in horror as literally thousands of priests and nuns were dragged to the guillotine and beheaded. Why? Because they were Catholic. The people who committed these acts were supposedly civilized, extremely educated people who were fighting for what? Their motto was LIBERTY, EQUALITY, AND BROTHERHOOD. Wow. Really? And the enemies of religion in our country are attacking religious freedom with virtually the same battle cry on their lips.
Our first reading and our gospel is about perseverance. Constancy. Patience in prayer. The Older monks called this virtue by a name I think is beautiful: LONGSUFFERING. Despite the odds, we must continue going. As a matter of fact, it is when we are at our lowest that faith must become our most important treasure, not number ten on the list of values. Please get more involved in this issues. And keep praying for our country. If every single person in this room began offering up prayers and sacrifices to the Immaculate heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it could possibly tip the scales to the side of goodness. I believe that. I really do.
When I was praying to the Lord about my vocation, I did so for years. I bothered him for so long that I eventually thought he wasn’t listening. But all at once–on December 6, 1994, as a matter of fact–God “cashed in” all those prayers. I think that this is the way God works. If you have been praying for something for awhile, don’t expect God to work gradually. He keeps all those prayers in a vault in Heaven, and pours them all out AT ONCE in a moment of grace that alters a life and puts you on a new plane, a new playing level. So be patient with yourself. Be patient with your petition. Be patient in prayer for our country.
It takes some patience. Some LONGSUFFERING as the old and wise monks once said. “But when the son of man comes, will he find any faith left on earth“? Let’s hope that He finds that light still burning in us….