As you know, right now all Catholics in America--all 70 million of us--
are focusing intently on a “Fortnight for Freedom,”
which will conclude this Wednesday as celebrate our nation’s independence.
It’s inspiring to see your responses!
Between both parishes, over 5,000 rosaries, prayers, sacrifices and so forth,
that we know of.
We have all that posted in the vestibule.
And, of course, many others are praying and sacrificing
but didn’t turn in a response.
Multiply that by the tens of thousands of parishes nationwide,
and it adds up, doesn’t it?
Also, remember this isn’t just Catholics.
Many of our fellow Americans, of different faiths,
likewise see the threats to religious freedom;
and not just at home, but everywhere.
For example--in Germany, a court ruled that
parents commit a crime if they circumcise their children.
If that ruling is upheld,
that makes an essential part of Islam and Judaism is now a crime.
Now, we are all, also, aware of the major decision handed down
by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
It isn’t my place to talk from the pulpit about that whole decision.
But, it does connect to the question of religious freedom--
because the mandate hanging over our heads,
that would force our Catholic institutions to act contrary to our Faith,
was authorized by the President’s health-care law.
A lot of folks are asking,
how does that ruling last week affect the mandate threatening us?
The answer is that we continue our efforts.
There are lawsuits against the mandate
that would force us to provide contraception and abortion services,
and those are still working their way through the courts.
They haven’t been decided yet.
So we keep praying and we keep sharing our message.
If you are tempted to give up, call it over, remember the woman in the Gospel.
She waited twelve years! Remember the official whose child died--
they said, don’t trouble the teacher any longer.
They gave up. And yet Jesus answered the prayer.
A lot of folks are reacting to this discussion of religious freedom
by saying, it’s all political. Well, it’s partly political of course.
The politicians are making decisions that affect our mission as Christians.
They chose to do that; and so we must respond.
Our response is prayer and asking them to relent.
This is totally legitimate.
The Mass prayers, you’ll notice, are for our public officials.
We’re praying for them.
We want good for our President, our Congress and our courts.
Let’s not give up on them.
But let’s step away from that arena and talk about the bigger picture.
We must defend the freedom of the Church to carry out her mission
because that mission is about fostering God’s Life in the world.
As the first reading said: God fashioned us for life;
God desires all Creation to enjoy the fullness of life.
Everything we profess; everything we do, is about that fullness of life.
We defend marriage because that makes a difference for families. That’s about life.
We stand for all unborn children to have life.
We want mothers to have the help they need to choose life.
Many of the institutions now in danger exist to do just that.
Instead of contraception, we stand for
welcoming and cooperating generously with the gift of life,
because we know the problem is not too much life--too many people--
but too little justice in how this world’s abundance is made available for all.
We built countless schools, charities and hospitals
precisely to help share God’s life with the poor and those in the shadows.
And we aim to keep doing that, without interference.
Other people are questioning our motives, perhaps attacking us.
But you and I are clear on what we stand for.
God’s Creation which is fashioned for life.
We are sent to heal and to restore--to give God’s healing and life.
As you know, this is my last homily to you.
I thought a lot about what I might say about that. I’m grateful to have been with you.
I’m thankful you have helped me become a better priest.
I am strengthened by your faith, your generosity and your prayers.
But the fact is, I was sent here to share God’s Word.
So I’m content to let that be the last word.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever, Amen!