I could not help but reflect upon the battle ahead in light of the 3rd Sunday Readings (OF)
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed….” God gave this prophetic message to Jonah as a sentence upon a nation that had become very proud of its own greatness. Thoroughly convinced of the wisdom and power of its own leaders, prophets, and achievements, it could not recognize its need to seek true wisdom and enlightenment of the omnipotent Father of all creation. God, in his mercy, sent Jonah to proclaim repentance.
“The time is running out.” To this people and their leader, the sentiment expressed in the words uttered by St. Paul, though yet to be spoken, seemed to be understood and to resonate in spite of Nineveh’s (the Assyrian Kingdom's) dominance, prosperity, and all around good fortune.
"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” Words like these and concern about the judgment of God have certainly been prominent throughout the history of the Church. When our Blessed Lord comes in the flesh, he begins his public ministry with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. “Repent, and believe in the gospel."
This past week, events have occurred which should direct us to meditate on these important and prophetic words.
An alarm was sounded in the address the Holy Father gave to some of the bishops from the US making their 5 year visit to the Holy See. He said there, “It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” He mentioned the need to be convinced of the seriousness of these threats. “Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.” Then he pointed to two specific problems, the denial of the right to refuse to be part of evil practices and the denial of the respect for freedom of conscience.
He was referring to efforts on the part of the administration to require that Catholic organizations provide sterilizations and chemical abortions to employees in their health care insurance plans. This would mean, as well, that Catholic hospitals, Catholic doctors and nurses and other health care workers would be required to participate in these things against their conscience. This will mean that Church-run universities and hospitals will have to participate in these plans. The Department of Health and Human Services has given us one year to comply. “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
What do you think of all of this? Citizens of the United States? Woe to you. What do you think I will do when the government tells me to do this, to keep my mouth shut, or support this? ["Looming over the entire exemption is the regulation’s language that HHS “may” exempt churches within the provision’s narrow scope. Nothing aside from the government’s interest in avoiding a court battle stands in the way of simply refusing to exempt even a Catholic diocese from the contraceptive mandate." Patrick Reilly, "The Fight To Be Catholic, http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/the-fight-to-be-catholic, January 22, 2012.] What will you do when I am removed from this parish, fined, or put in jail for refusal to participate or for teaching against these evils? I assure you, I will not go against my conscience or the Church’s teaching on this. You judges, you lawyers, you legislators, you politicians, you police officers? What will you do? What will you do when your doctor is suspended from his or her practice for violating these laws? Woe to you.
Perhaps hearing all of this is distressing to you. It is more than that to me. Hearken, therefore, to the words of Jesus: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." And to those of St. Paul: “The time is running out.”
I would like to be able to tell you that the Holy Father, Cardinal-Designate Dolan, and the many others who have voiced their alarm are just crying wolf. They are not. (Really, I ask, how often do we get anything that straightforward from the Pope or a major prelate when it comes to our government's actions? It must be bad!) We must be convinced, more than ever, that we need the power of God to assist us in this spiritual battle to protect our freedom and the right to live out our faith as followers of Christ.