Sunday, October 25, 2009

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I preached this sermon to kick up our registration campaign for the Maryland Advocacy Network. It was received better than I expected, although I had a couple walk out on me in the middle of my preaching. I guess not everybody agrees with the social dimension of the Church. We had about 500 sign up for the network and hope to get some more stragglers in the next few weeks. After mass I got some questions about Church History, the crusades and the inquisition. Anyway I hope you enjoy it!
If you have ever traveled across countries like Spain or Bavaria you might have noticed something peculiar. There is always a Church at the center of every town. The reason for this is because up until perhaps about 100 years ago in these communities, the Church was the center of social and cultural life. Which begs the question: How could it be that the religion started by 12 Jewish fishermen became the dominant social institution of western civilization for more that 1000 years?
Well, after the collapse of the Roman Empire about the year 476 what people knew as “the government “and “the military” was gone. There was nobody in charge to offer political and social leadership. So the people turned to their bishops and priests to fill this vacuum. Eventually new states emerged from the ashes of the Roman Empire but the idea of the centrality of the Church remained so ingrained in this society that sometimes it was very difficult to determine where the church ended and the state began. Sadly, because of men’s fallen nature, instead of the Church influencing this new social and political order, the marriage between Church and state resulted in the corruption of the Church, and those things that should have remained most sacred: The respect for the life and dignity of the poor and for those who did not have a voice of their own was became secondary.
In our collective minds words like the inquisition and the crusades have become examples of everything that was wrong with this time. Now, I think it is important that as Catholics we accept and do not shy away from the reality of our History. However it is also important to know that when we take a critical view of Church history, the crusades and the inquisition become something completely different than what is presented to us by Hollywood or Monty Python) . Don’t get me wrong… I am not saying that there were no abuses by the leaders of the Church during these times, but for every bad, priest, deacon, bishop, crusader, inquisitor and even Popes, God gave us people like Francis of Assisi, John De Matha, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross and many more, great saints that kept alive what it meant to be the voice of the poor and the oppressed.
So we can look at the History of the Church in two ways: We can be cynics and say that because of this history of abuse the Church should not mingle into the affairs of the state or we can understand that because of its divine nature, the Church is in a unique position to take these failings and weaknesses and inform the society of today.
This history has taught us that The Church and the State should always remain separate, that it is harmfully to society for the church to attempt to take the place of the state. The Church role however is to remind those in power that their authority comes from God and should be used for the common good and to serve the needs of the poor and the weak.
Our Catholic faith should form the conscience of society especially of those in power so that they can recognize what is just, good and true. And when laws that affect the institutions which are the foundation of this society, like the family or the rights of human beings are introduced by the government it is the duty of the Church to subject them to a moral judgment.
Now this responsibility is not only reserved to the hierarchy of the Church, as baptized children of God we are all called to work for the common good, and the best way of doing this is through the exercise of faithful citizenship. To quote the Catechism “As far as possible citizens should take an active part the in political life” All citizens have the right and duty to speak up on issues that impact human dignity and the common good. My brothers and sisters, the voice of the faithful is a vital part of the Church’s advocacy for the poor and the weak. As constituent we all have an enormous influence regarding lawmakers’ decision as long as they hear from us!
By now you might be wandering where I am going with all this. Well… let me ask you this: Have you ever known of a piece of legislation that was passed, that you wish you could have expressed your agreement or disagreement to your elected officials? Have you ever said to yourself I disagree with this proposed law but “What can I do I’m only one person” Well, in order to help Catholics exercise their call to faithful citizenship at the state level, Archbishop O’Brien has instituted a program called The Maryland Advocacy Network and has mandated that all Catholics in our diocese be given the opportunity to register to participate in this program. So today I will explain how it works and then I will ask you to fill a form so you can register for this effort. Now let me assure you of two things: 1) This is NOT a fund raiser effort. You will not be asked to contribute any money for this effort. Everything is done via e-mails .2) The information collected will be kept private and will not be shared with any organizations.
Now to joint this effort you are asked to provide your name, e-mail address and home address. The bishop recognizes also that the spirit moves each one of us in a different way so we are given the opportunity to select only those areas of social justice that interest us. They have divided these in 4 areas :Education, Family life (marriage, adoption, work issues), Respect for life (pregnancy support, bio-ethics, end-of-life issues, death penalty, the rights of the unborn), Social concerns (poverty, health care, immigration, criminal justice).
The way it works is like this, the information you give today will be kept in our database. When an important vote at the state level is coming up, you will receive an e-mail alert, but only when it relates to the areas you have selected. The e-mail will link to a pre-drafted message to send to your lawmaker (this is why we need your address too!) . You can send the e-mail as it is or you can modify it to suit your style. The whole process will not take but just a couple of minutes.
Must emails will be sent between January and April, when the Maryland General Assembly is in session, though some alert will be send at other times
Now please open the brochure…
…The ushers will not collect them now.
On behalf of Archbishop O’Brien and especially on behalf of all those who will benefit from your advocacy, I would like to thank you for hearing the call to be faithful citizens of our great nation. God bless you.