In light of the pernicious HHS mandate that I was compelled to bring to your attention last week, as did Fr. DeRosa and Fr. McDonell, it seems problematic that we now devote the homily at Mass to the Cardinal’s Appeal, but I would submit that instead this is truly providential.
It could not come at a more poignant time, really, because as we prepare to give of our resources to support the Appeal, we remind ourselves that the Church is not a group of people who are turned in on some shared interest or activity. Worshiping God together is the indispensible center of our very being, and the goal of our every breath. However, because of the God we encounter in that worship we turn outward as well, and greet everyone we encounter with the Good News.
Now that may sound to you like something Jesus Freaks would do, something that could be dismissed or disapproved as proselytizing. But do not allow that scary word to form you! Realize that in knowing Christ, we encounter God in His knowledge and love for us. Being formed by this awareness, given us by the Scriptures, and fortified by His presence and activity in the Sacraments, we are made able to look upon our neighbors with a share of that divine love.
When we see our neighbors with the eyes of God, we are moved by this love to respond to their needs. Whether that need is a kind word or a hot lunch, we respond according to our ability and resources. This is the work of faith that occurs at the level of the local church, the Church of Washington, through the Cardinal’s Appeal. We also do this work within our parish and community, and even as families and as individuals, with needs that we identify and address. This is the work of the Gospel just as much as is our prayer. We cannot not help our brothers and sisters in need.
In doing so, we reveal to the recipients of our care not only God Himself in his merciful love, but who they themselves truly are – unique and cherished sons and daughters, marvelously defined by the divine dignity bestowed on them by their Creator. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ: You are loved and worth loving; you are worth everything I have to give.
Because the dignity this reveals in every person who accepts this gift, this mercy, and this love, is characterized by freedom, anyone to whom we provide help or sustenance is free to recognize or reject the truth of their great worth in the eyes of God. Our care never carries with it the expectation, much less the requirement, of acceptance of the Faith that directs and animates it.
Thus our acts of charity are motivated by our recognition of and respect for the dignity of those to whom we give our care, and thus not only do not only not infringe upon, but actually enhance, their own freedom and understanding of it.
It is precisely this outreach of love and respect that the HHS mandate seeks to curtail, and even eliminate, by sentencing us to choose between our faith and our works. It will deny our freedom, and our dignity. We have been endowed with this dignity and this freedom by our Creator. But it is not “merely” a precept of “our religion,” as some would dismiss it; it is a founding precept of our civil covenant, the Constitution.
For this reason our course of action is clear. As citizens, we will resist the abuse of civil power. As Christians, we will continue to do the work of love. But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the head, even Christ. (Eph 4:15)