Fortnight: Our chance to witness to His love for all
"The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb He gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of His arm."
Today we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord.
Something new and remarkable happened with the birth of John the Baptist. He was conceived in his mother's old age and six months before Our Savior. He leapt in his mother's womb when Mary arrived at Elizabeth's home. At his birth, Zechariah's mouth was opened and fear came upon all their neighbors and they exclaimed, "What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him."
Today's passage from Isaiah is applied to John the Baptist and gives us an insight into what God had in mind for this forerunner of the Messiah. "The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb He gave me my name. He made me a sharp edged-sword and concealed me in the shadow of His arm. He made me a polished arrow, in His quiver He hid me. You are my servant, He said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory."
Who would ever imagine that the forerunner of the Messiah would be dressed in camel's hair, and live on wild locusts and honey out in the desert? Yet, while his lifestyle may have concealed his role as the forerunner of the Messiah, his preaching openly revealed it. He was an arrow hidden in the quiver. "I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the One who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
John the Baptist was indeed the "sharp edged-sword" first concealed at birth but revealed in his public ministry. His powerful words convicted many tax collectors and sinners. He eventually was beheaded because he had the courage to tell Herod that he was living in sin with his sister-in-law.
It is most fitting that, during this "Fortnight for Freedom," that we celebrate this heroic and courageous forerunner, as well as several other very significant martyrs, who boldly witnessed to their faith by shedding their blood!
What is the problem? The Health and Human Services Mandate forces insurance providers to cover the cost of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, as well as contraception. In effect, the federal government is demanding that the Church pay for actions that are intrinsically evil! It forces Catholics to violate their consciences and deprives them of their religious freedom.
What is the answer? The bishops are calling us to observe a "Fortnight for Freedom," a special time period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action. See the rest of this paper for details.
It is the aim of godless secularism to remove all religious influence from the public square and to let the state determine all human values. It is the role of the Church to remind man that there is a God who created us out of His goodness and has revealed to us the promise of everlasting life with Him in heaven. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our salvation and to take away our sins. Jesus has called us to be His witnesses. This is our chance! Christ spilled His blood on Calvary for our salvation. Now it is our turn to be willing to spill our blood, if necessary, to witness to His love for all of mankind!
After all, every time we receive Most Holy Communion, we receive His Body and His Blood into our bodies and souls, fortifying us to do for Him what He did for us!
First we are asked to pray. This is a good time to get the family back to daily prayer. Pick from the many options available, such as the Rosary, Litany of the Most Sacred Heart, Litany of the Most Precious Blood, Litany of Loreto, the Divine Mercy Chaplet or the Prayer for Religious Freedom. Every family has time for daily family prayer. If a family has time to eat, they have time to pray! This is not a matter of time! It is a matter of faith!
With prayer we can also include fasting. Most of us would do much better with less food and more prayer. We can fast from food. We can fast from some television and use that time to pray. We can fast from rash judgment, from anger and from gossip. This type of fasting applies to everyone, including myself! Offer up the discomfort for the conversion of our nation, and thus find peace instead of turmoil!
We are also called to study. Perhaps there are some teachings of the Church with which we disagree. That is very possible, because perhaps we don't really understand what the Church is asking of us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a wealth of information in it. If you disagree with some issues, pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten you. You can pray your way into conformity with the Catholic Church. Don't condemn yourself because you think you disagree.
Finally, we are called to action. Action can take many forms. It might be writing to our representatives in Congress. Your parish bulletins will provide the necessary information. It also means that when you go into the voting booth, loyalty to God is far more important than loyalty to a particular party! Would you, at the general judgment, want to hear from Jesus these words, "I was in my mother's womb and you voted for pro-choice or for pro-abortion candidates?"
Finally, I want to say that I am proud of the courageous leadership of our American bishops. In particular, I am proud of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's courageous leadership and his statement at the Rally for Religious Liberty in Jefferson City on March 27. Among other powerful statements, he said: "We are here today to say clearly and to tell the government that we will render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but we will NOT render unto Caesar what belongs to Almighty God."
Heaven is not for wimps! Heaven is for martyrs!
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