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Freedom to Pursue God’s Plan

As we commemorate our nation’s independence this Tuesday, two thoughts come to my mind. The first is a reminder of my recent trip to Ghana which is celebrating their 60th year of independence from Great Britain in 1957. They have done so much to be a developed and stable country in such a short amount of time! The second thought is about the spiritual and moral state of the USA. I was going to lay out some of my own reflections, but found similar (and much more profound) thoughts from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The following are excerpts from an interview he did in March 2017 with cruxnow.com.

We know that our country is not perfect, but the main thing that we honor and celebrate on July 4th is the freedom as individuals and as a nation to pursue perfection, to be who we really want to be, and who God wants us to be. On Tuesday, thank God for our freedom, and pray for all Americans!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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Lots of bishops publish books, but often they’re pretty churchy. (Your new) book is really an exercise in cultural criticism.

“I’m very pleased, of course, by other things and cultural developments…we certainly live in a world where people can be healthier and happier than in the past. One thing in my mind is that I have many friends who have children with disabilities, and it’s obvious over the course of these last many decades that our country, our society’s care for people with disabilities has gotten much better. People are much more included in the life of our communities.

But at the same time, it’s a culture that kills people with disabilities in the womb in ways that never happened before. Very few children today who were born with Down Syndrome because people can detect that early on and children are aborted.

So the same society, with the same kind of technology, can use it in ways that serve us more radically generously or ways that are more radically selfish and sad. So that’s the kind of confusion that I write about in the book…

In terms of Church practice the numbers of people attending Christian services on Sunday whether they’re Protestants or Catholics is much less than it was in the past. The Gospel principles in terms of family life are not as embraced as they were in the past. I think that we live in a much more diverse society in the United States than before in terms of people accessing other forms of religious faith. It used to be that we defined our country as a Judeo-Christian country in terms of our heritage, but there’s a resistance to even talk that way among some of the elites of today…”

You write that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a watershed moment for America, the advent of a new way of conceiving American society no longer based on a shared set of values rooted in Biblical faith.

“… (Leading our country to a different direction vis-a-vis legalized gay marriage, imposing contraceptive practice on insurance programs, and the focus on transgenderism) demonstrate a watershed that is going in the direction that is contrary to traditional Christian moral principles…”

You’ve been sharply critical of some early moves by the Trump administration, for example on refugees and immigrants.

“I certainly will continue to do that…”

If we live in a culture that’s in some ways post-Christian, what’s the Church supposed to do?

“Well, first of all we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world around us. Many people of my generation are somewhat anxious about what’s going on, but they haven’t really analyzed in a serious way how we got from where we were to where we are today, and in the book I try to point out some of the factors that were active in our culture that led to where we are today. We have to be aware of it, but then we also have to have hope that we can live in this culture in a way that we can be full-throated, committed Christians and pass that on to our children…”

How?

“The answer is, you have to be personally converted into the faith. You can’t pass it on if you don’t have it. Parents are going to be more important in the life, the faith life of their children than they have been in the past, because in the past the culture supported that faith life. The schools basically supported that faith life. The Christian communities were strong. People would go to church and that would support that faith life.

It’s really going to be the family that’s going to be the primary tool that God will use to evangelize, beginning with their children of course. But then families associating

together in smaller groups, support groups of one another will be very important in the future as well. As parishes are supposed to be, but they’re institutions now rather than support groups.”

Triumph Over Temptation

1st Sunday of Lent
Family story
“Filled with the Holy Spirit”
Fasting of Christ
    Spiritual strength
5 Ways to triumph over temptation
Fasting
Scripture
Prayer
Reason
Sacraments
Eucharist —> Freedom

The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Last week at Community Sunday, Father Gary gave a profound talk on “God and Country” in which he focused on religious freedom in our nation. He used much evidence to show that our Founding Fathers were men of deep faith in God. The introductory words of our Declaration of Independence, which he called a “creed”, establish our rights as given by God: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words have immeasurable value for us as Americans every day, but they carry special weight for us on two days this week.

On Monday, January 18, the United States celebrates the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors the immense impact he has had in making the words of the Declaration of Independence apply to all Americans. Father Gary highlighted Dr. King in his talk, and said that he had many “scars” to show for his defense of civil rights. In the first part of his famous speech on the March on Washington in 1963, Dr. King said “when the architects of our Great Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…It is obvious that America has defaulted on this promissory note.” His heroic words for and witness to the God-given rights of all people woke up a nation. He preached love, justice, peace, and non-violence in soaring rhetoric. But, as is the case with those who speak the truth in love, he endured many scars from the enemies of love and justice, including the ultimate scar of death.

On Monday, we are given two local opportunities to honor Dr. King. At our 12:10 Mass here on Monday, we will thank God in special ways for him. Also, the 10th annual MLK Peace Walk and Parade will occur on our street between 11 am – 2 pm on Monday. This Friday, January 22, is the annual March for Life in downtown Washington. This, too, is based on the words of our Founding Fathers that all Americans have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. This applies to all persons, including the unborn. The most fundamental human right is the right to life! We march every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to peacefully and prayerfully protest the legalization of abortion which resulted from the Supreme Court’s decision on January 22, 1973. Included in the massive (predominantly Catholic) crowd will be thousands of young people, women who regret their abortions, and African-American pastors who condemn the racist foundations of abortion-provider Planned Parenthood. Dr. King would probably support this March on Washington, too (his niece is a leader in the pro-life movement). “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stridently denounced abortion as a form of genocide in many speeches.” (Lifelines, Winter 1997, p.14 online). Please make every effort to attend an event on Monday and the March on Friday. Father Gary encouraged us to defend our God-given rights, and, like MLK, to have the scars to prove it.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg