It seems very appropriate the at the start of our second annual Fortnight for Freedom we celebrate the Memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas Moore and this evening start our celebration of the Solemnity of Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Their actions, their witness are important guides for our activities as disciples. All three saints were active in the societies they lived in bringing the Gospel to those around them by their words and how they lived their lives.
Last year we were alarmed by the HHS mandate that intruded upon our first amendment rights; and people of many faiths rallied to protect what we perceive, and rightly so, as an attack on our constitutional rights of freedom of religion. One year later, nothing has changed; the HHS Mandate is exactly as it was last year, it will affect religious institutions starting this August and we are awaiting the courts decisions. This coming week we are expecting the Supreme Court to rule on two cases regarding so called ‘same-sex marriage’ and we pray worried – looking back 40 years to another Supreme Court case – Roe v Wade.
Our Bishops are calling each of us to vigilance; to proclaim our beliefs and to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans. We are called to move forward as Christ’s disciples – witnessing to Christ’s desire for peace and love throughout the world with our works of social justice and charity. But what does that entail, moving forward as Christ’s disciples – how are we to act? Today’s Gospel gives us some insight. Christ asks the disciples – ‘But who do you say that I am?’ and Peter replies for them ‘The Christ of God’. This exchange is followed a strange sentence. ‘He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone’.
In today’s world of success by intrigue, deceit and subterfuge we might be tempted to think Christ is trying to hide his mission from the people, trying to quietly succeed by furtive means. We are tempted to view this comment as proving that He is either worried or has ulterior motives. But if viewed this way, I believe we are missing the point; and by missing it we are failing to understand the true power of discipleship – humility. His Holiness Pope Francis in his April 8th Homily told us ‘Humility is the “golden rule”. “Advancing”, for Christians, means “lowering themselves”. He continued by telling those at the daily mass: ‘The whole history of faith is made of humility…It seems that God wanted every event ‘to be concealed, that it not be made public’, that it be , as it were, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.’(1)
Every action of Christ’s mission is shrouded in humility; God comes down to our level, He lowers Himself as the Pope put it, and humbly walks the path to the cross. This path of Christ; this humble path of love, is what He teaches us, this is how we present ourselves, today’s disciples, to the world around us. It is not a cowering; it is an honest humility that allows people to see love shine forth. It is Christ on the cross who, while allowing his passion to proceed, turns to the good thief and ministers to him. It is standing up for our rights (both constitutional and divine), not backing down; but also not pompous or aggressive, nor hateful and fearful – but loving and understanding, accepting all those in the public discourse with love even if we don’t agree with their ideas. ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ is our mantra as we go forward with our part in the national discussion of events. As Pope Francis mentioned we allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow events; so that our actions radiate the love, hope and peace that is God as we work from the level of those around us, bringing them up to our level of understanding – to God’s revealed truth.
So as we go forward as disciples, witnesses to God’s message, let us look to the great examples of humility and ask for their intercessions – St. John the Baptist who’s nativity we are celebrating and who proclaimed: ‘He must increase; I must decrease.’; St. Joseph who obediently accepted God’s plan; and of course our blessed mother Mary, who’s great hymn of humility, the Magnificat, we will proclaim shortly.
(1) L’osservatore Romano (English edition 4/17/2013 pg 10)