To live in freedom

Quote of the Day

To live freely means to rid ourselves of the habits of slaves, just as the people of Israel were called to do at Mt. Sinai. To worship rightly, to honor parents and the sanctity of life, to deal honestly and justly with others — these are the virtues of freedom, the habits of free men and women. That is why God enjoined them in the Ten Commandments — to bind us in order to liberate us for goodness and for love.

That failure to live freedom excellently is what the Catholic Church means by sin. Sin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, is an “abuse of freedom.” It is a slavish habit that weakens our capacity to love others and to love God. When we come to indulge those bad habits we come to see God as a limitation on our freedom, rather than the source and fulfillment of that freedom. — George Weigel, The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Sirach 15:15–20

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live;
he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.
The eyes of God are on those who fear him;
he understands man’s every deed.
No one does he command to act unjustly,
to none does he give license to sin.

Gospel: Matthew 5:17–37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife –  unless the marriage is unlawful –
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

Two Minutes to Virtue Mini Homily
Having a Loving Intention

Catechism of the Day: Man’s Freedom

CCC 1731–1733

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”

Questions of the Day

  • What are you choosing?
  • Do you want what God wants?
  • Does death (sin) have dominion over you?
  • Are you looking for or wanting a license?
  • Do you walk in freedom?
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Carry the Gospel of Freedom

Extremists for Love

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, carried and asked others also to “carry the Gospel of Freedom,” which is found only in Jesus Christ. Dr King knew his dignity came from being made by God and in the image and likeness of God. Dr King brought the sin of racism out into the open. He lived not for himself, but for truth, justice, and peace. In the face of injustice and violence, he practiced love of neighbor and nonviolence; he was an “extremist for love.” For his work of “nonviolent direct action,” he not only won the Nobel Peace Prize (1964) but also was arrested 30 times and ultimately assassinated at age 39. .

May Dr King rest in peace, may eternal light shine upon him. From heaven, with the communion of saints, may he assist us on our Journey of Reconciliation with God and neighbor. May we honor his memory by living in the freedom of Jesus Christ.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Scripture for the Morning: Nehemiah 9:12–13

With a column of cloud you led them by day,
and by night with a column of fire,
To light the way of their journey,
the way in which they must travel.
On Mount Sinai you came down,
you spoke with them from heaven;
You gave them just ordinances, true laws,
good statutes and commandments;

Prayers of the Day

Praise the God of Mercy: He Shared Our Human Nature

We give you praise, Father most holy; for you are great and you have fashioned all your works in wisdom and love. You formed man in your own image and entrusted the whole world to his care, so that in serving you alone, the Creator, he might have dominion over all creatures. And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death.

For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek, might find you. Time and again you offered them the covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.

And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit  and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy. To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.

And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bring to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.
[Eucharistic Prayer IV]

Keep us faithful

O Lord, as we travel through this day of our life, our strength is in you; in our hearts are the roads to our eternal destination, the place where you dwell for ever with your people in joy and in peace. Sustain us as we pass through the bitter valleys of suffering; shield us as dangers threaten; let us rejoice in the springs of living water that refresh us on our way; and keep us faithful until journey’s end, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Magnificat, January 16, 2017]

Radiant Stars of Love Shine Over our Nation

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
[MLK, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963]

Question of the Day

  • Do you know who you are and what gives you your value?

Resources for the MKL Jr Remembrance

Public Comment on HHS Mandate

Deadline for Public Comment on HHS Mandate is September 20

The Supreme Court ruled in May in the case of Zubik v Burwell that the federal government cannot impose its Contraceptive Mandate upon religious organizations and must accommodate the religious beliefs of the petitioners.

Rather than exempt both nonprofit and for profit religious organizations, as the government did for Pepsi Bottling Co., Exxon and Chevron, and the U.S. military, the Obama administration continues to drag its feet by asking for public comment not on ways to accommodate the petitioners, but on alternative ways.

The summary provided by the government exudes its bias and refusal to honor religious liberty in America:

This document is a request for information on whether there are alternative ways (other than those offered in current regulations) for eligible organizations that object to providing coverage for contraceptive services on religious grounds to obtain an accommodation, while still ensuring that women enrolled in the organizations’ health plans have access to seamless coverage of the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives without cost sharing. This information is being solicited in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Zubik v. Burwell, 136 S. Ct. 1557 (2016). The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) invite public comments via this request for information. — 81 Federal Register 47741

My first question is why wouldn’t the government use the ways offered in current regulations? Why are alternative ways necessary?

Please take a moment today and send your comments to the Obama administration and ask them to stop persecuting religious believers with these endless lawsuits and to start honoring and respecting the free exercise of religion—a bedrock principle of America.

Resources

Second Question of the Day

Why does the Obama administration think that fertile American women are such a public health crisis? Why does our federal government view healthy women as requiring a method for rendering their reproductive systems defunct, even at the increased risk of blood clots, stroke and  heart attack, infertility, higher blood pressure, cervical and breast cancer, depression and anxiety, and so on?

Contraception is not health care. Neither is abortion. These are tools of the culture of death, and they are tools deemed necessary by those who worship the god of sex and self-gratification. Contraception and abortion create a culture of use rather than a civilization of love. Women who want to contracept and the men who don’t love the women they want to contracept, need to buy the pills themselves. The idea that somehow access to contraception is something poor women need is a farce. Few women need oral contraception.

The government has no right to coerce anyone to participate in the immoral behavior of others. And, no, Donald, the pill should not be available over the counter.

God save America!

The Lord raises and casts down

1787 or 2016?

Different sentiments on every question, a wont of political wisdom, groping in the dark to find political truth, divided by little partial local interests, ignoring our powerful friend

Questions of the Day

  • Do we imagine we no longer need God’s assistance?
  • Can an empire rise or be sustained without God’s aid?
  • What are America’s “seeds of dissolution” and to what extend have they been sown?

Scripture of the Day
Tobit 4:18–19

“Seek counsel from every wise person, and do not think lightly of any useful advice. At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper. For no other nation possesses good counsel, but it is the Lord who gives all good things. Whomever the Lord chooses to raise is raised; and whomever the Lord chooses to cast down is cast down to the recesses of Hades. So now, son, keep in mind these my commandments, and never let them be erased from your heart.”

Quote of the Day
Benjamin Franklin’s Constitutional Convention address, Philadelphia, June 28, 1787

Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own wont of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their  Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

[source: American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank]

Let us not grow weary of imploring the assistance of Heaven for God’s blessing upon America and her elected officials, and may all American institutions begin their daily business with a prayer in the name of God.

King of kings, look down in mercy

In 1774 the adversary of the American people was King George III, and his insistence upon taxing the colonists without giving them representation in Parliament. Taxation and representation, however, were not what Colonial Americans wanted; self-government was their aim.

Today the greatest adversaries of America are infused in the culture. Rather than coming from without, our demise is self-orchestrated. Our adversaries are the culture of death, which promotes abortion and euthanasia, and post-modern relativism, which rejects objective truth.

America is once again at a significant crossroads in her history and would do well to petition the King of kings not only to look down in mercy, but to forgive us our sins, give our elected officials wisdom, and defeat the malicious designs of the evil one that truth and justice, religion and piety may prevail and flourish in our nation.

Prayer of the Day
First Prayer of the Continental Congress, September 7, 1774

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee.

To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.

Amen.

Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m.

Source: Prayer Archives of the Office of the Chaplain, United States House of Representatives

Politics & faith: the conflict myth

Stuck in False Narratives That Constrain

Read a good book

This week my public library called to let me know that it was my turn to borrow If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas. Though only nearing the end of chapter two, I’m prepared to say that every American needs to read this book. Liberals. Conservatives. Moderates. Fiscal this/social that. Greenies. Whatever label that you like to wear so long as you care about the United States of America and freedom, read this book.

If you think we need to rewrite the constitution, then maybe you won’t like this book. But give it a try and decide for yourself. If you are unclear about why and how American liberty is at risk, read this book. If You Can Keep It is the perfect read as we sail toward the upcoming election — not because it is a guide for how to vote, but because it reminds us why America is exceptional and has the role of city on a hill for the whole world.

A call to action

If You Can Keep It is a call to action and a call to hope. Metaxas talks about “keeping” America (preserving and maintaining our liberty). I prefer “save” rather than “keep.” My language is a bit more dire, but not unwarranted given the threats to religious liberty, not just from lobbyists, but from President Obama and his administration, and activist Supreme Court justices.

Metaxas wants to educate, inspire, and remind We the People of our responsibilities to the republic. While Metaxas does not believe all is lost, he does caution that American liberty is a fragile thing that requires work. It’s not something to be taken for granted. While there is no need to wallow in despair over the symptoms of our time (i.e., our choices for president), we must resist the urge to disengage.

What is required of us—of each one of us who are “we the people”—is something we have mostly forgotten. — Introduction: The Promise, p 3

Start a conversation

So start a book club and begin the conversation about how We the People must save America. Now is not a time for political correctness. Americans need to both speak up and listen. Thankfully, for the most part, American liberty is a unifying theme.

No shouting, no name-calling, and no nice-nice

When I say start a conversation, I don’t mean just with people who agree with you, think like you, look like you, talk like you, went or go to the same school or church as you. I’m thinking more along the lines of having a National Politically Incorrect Day (or week or month). On this day America turns of the TV, tunes out the mouths with megaphones that yell, talk at, and name call. Leave off the mass media narratives, and rally the ground troops. Passion is human, but nobody shouts or gets hostile. On the other hand, nobody plays the nice-nice game of self-censorship for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

One minute of mass media would have us believing that respectful dialogue is impossible. I disagree. The problems of our day are serious, and if we do not work together at the local level to start solving them, We the People will be tempted to look toward the government. Too many already do look to the government as savior. We the People need to step up before the government steps in and intrudes on, or worse, chips away at our liberty, especially the freedom to exercise our religion.

A key point Metaxas makes is that the first responsibility of We the People is self-government. And by that he means not politics, but living lives of virtue. The more we are able to govern ourselves, the smaller and less intrusive our federal government can be.

True freedom must be an “ordered freedom,” at the center of which is what we call “self-government.” …People would not have freedom from government, but would have freedom from tyrannous government, or from government that might easily become tyrannous. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, p 29

What was required was a virtuous people who were prepared to handle the great freedom being proposed….The founders understood that the more each person governed himself, the less there would be a need for strong government, and by their estimation the American people were ready. The faith and the virtue of the American people made possible the most free nation in the history of the world. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, pp 36–37

An obstacle to overcome: a critical yet misleading myth entrenched in pop culture

As it is with the myth that faith and science are opposed to each other and incompatible, so it is with the myth that faith and politics, too, must be divorced. Where these myths come from and how are they perpetuated are questions worth asking, but not the consideration of today.

If we are to “keep” this republic, we have to see it afresh and really understand what we’re keeping, must have a clear grasp of what this American republic is and how it works. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, pp 17–18

A second obstacle to overcome: not everyone wants to have a conversation

I talk politics and religion. I don’t care if we agree; the conversation is often more interesting when we don’t. But respect for self and other is essential. To my dismay, I meet too many people who do not want to have a conversation at all or who are so afraid, they lower their voice, less the PC police come after them. It breaks my heart to see so many caring and intelligent people trapped in fear, more difficult though are those who are unwilling to listen, consider other perspectives, or have their preferred narrative challenged.

When I bring up issues facing our country and try to bring a moral component to the topic, some people quickly pronounce “separation of church and state!” It is a mantra to stop the conversation. Don’t hold me accountable to a standard set by your God. The best strategy I’ve come up with when this happens is to ask the person to explain what they mean by that. Many people do not understand that separation of church and state does not mean that you check your morals at the door, that you can’t pray at school or in the halls of government. It means that the federal government cannot establish a religion and compel the people to join it or support it financially.

When religious liberty falls in America, so America falls

Religious freedom is a foundational concept of American liberty. Everyone should care about this freedom, even atheists. Without the foundation of having the freedom to act or not act in accordance with your conscience, all other liberties are at risk.

But it was impossible for the founders to see where after two centuries the things that were secure in their day would change, that faith could be greatly eroded and then pushed out of the public square via a misunderstanding of the concept of separation of church and state; and that via many things, such as Vietnam and Watergate, trust in the institutions of government could be damaged — and yet how ironically and predictably, the people would increasingly assume the government itself could and would do what was necessary. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, pp 48–49

Only We the People can save America

The only way to save America is to get involved. Citizen, arise and rediscover your duty as an American. Read a good book. Talk politics. Talk faith. Talk freedom. Release yourself from the censorship of political correctness. Discern how to share your God-given gifts for the common good. Take courage! If someone calls you a mean name, smile, and forgive, because the person you are talking to has run out of intelligent and thoughtful things to say.

As I said, I am just finishing up chapter two, so I don’t know where Metaxas will take me next. But I do know that Christians have a responsibility to bring Jesus to the public square. We are not just trying to preserve America, we also have a mission to bring the Good News to everyone.

Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. — Jesus, Matthew 10:32–33; Luke 12:8–9

Let secular France be a warning to us.

We invite catastrophe by sincerely believing that the religious affiliation of a citizen has no political bearing or effect.