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Mass for Religious Liberty Homily

Here is an excellent pro-life homily which was offered by Fr. Chris Landis during the Mass for Religious Liberty on November 4 at St. Anastasia Church.

We are gathered here today, on the eve of an election, to pray for religious liberty. We are gathered here because we recognize the threats, we have seen the attacks on this most important of freedoms. Religious liberty has always been a fundamental and necessary aspect of the American experience. Our founding fathers recognized that happiness and liberty must grow out of virtue; and that for virtue, religious faith is key.

But sadly what was so clear to our Founding Fathers, is now forgotten and attacked in our increasingly secular society. We know that attacks take various forms. There are two in particular I want to focus on tonight, as examples of what we face, and how we need to respond. The Health and Human Services mandate, forcing men and women of faith to pay for contraceptives and abortion inducing drugs. This is clearly one of the most obvious and dangerous attacks. The other prominent attack on religious liberty involves marriage, and the attempt to redefine in. People have already faced legal threats for refusing to treat same-sex marriage as marriage. They have been threatened with arrest – and arrested – for hate crimes. In this area in particular the world seeks to silence the Church, refusing to listen to Her defense of marriage, and writing it off as hatred and bigotry. Our opponents are trying to use the labels “bigot” and “homophobe” to force and coerce men and women of faith to recognize – as marriage – something contrary to God plan. These are just two of many attacks on Religious Liberty, but they serve as good examples.

So how are we to respond? Well, first and foremost, by what we are doing right now, right here: Prayer. No instrument, no tool in our disposal is as powerful as prayer. We must pray constantly that religious liberty be protected in our land, and we must pray for those who attack it, that God in His mercy and love will enlighten their hearts to hear His voice.

But I think there are three other, challenging but important things we must do if we are to protect and preserve religious liberty. First: we must demand our religious liberty in the political sphere. We must speak out courageously. We must demand religious liberty by supporting the politicians who will defend it, and by writing to, and petitioning those who don’t. We may need to demand our liberty in marches and protest. In short we must never allow our calls for liberty to be silenced.

I think we are falling far short in a second and more important step to protecting religious liberty. We must explain the Church teachings, with care, precision, and compassion. To often the Church teachings are written off as backward, and old fashioned – or worse, as bigoted and hateful. They are none of these things.

Lets turn to our two examples. We don’t we want to be forced to pay for contraceptives. Why? It is not simply an issue of being free to choose whether to pay for them or not. We don’t want to pay for them because they are gravely evil. Its time for us to say so. And to use the Church teaching to reveal it those who do not believe. We can point Paul VI’s encyclical Humane Vitae. In it he predicted what would happen if contraceptives became morally acceptable and commonly used. He warned of four consequence: 1) A general lowering of moral stands, 2) A rise in infidelity and increase in births outside of marriage, 3) The rise in the objectification of women and, 4) Government coercion in reproductive matters. I think it clear just how prophetic Paul VI insight were.

Contraceptives are a grave evil, that corrupts our understanding of God’s plan for human sexuality and lead to a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person. The increase in contraceptives has led to lack of respect for human life, and consequently an increase in abortion. We need to be willing and able to proclaim these truths to world, and to denounce contraceptives as the evil they are. If we don’t, all the political activism we can muster will not be enough to preserve our freedom in this area

As for same sex marriage. We need to explain the Church teaching on marriage. We do not denounce same sex marriage because of hatred. And while its true that homosexual acts are sinful, even that is not the primary reason why we reject same sex marriage. No, we reject same sex marriage because it would redefine marriage, and remove a key aspect of what marriage truly is. Marriage is not simply about two people who love each other deciding to dedicate themselves to each other. No. Marriage exists for children. Marriage exists because children deserve a father and mother. That is the purpose of marriage, to provide a stable and loving family in which to children can be raised by their father and mother.  So when people accuse of us of refusing to accept same sex marriage because we hate “gays”, we can explain to them that is not the case. We refuse to redefine marriage because we love children and God’s plan for them.

These are just two examples. This applies to all attacks on religious freedom. If we want to preserve our religious liberty we must be able and willing to defend our religious beliefs with compassion and zeal.

The final thing we must do to protect religious liberty is the most challenging and the most important. We must live religious lives. When it comes to contraceptives, we – as Catholic community – must stop using them. But even that isn’t enough. We must go further. We must live lives that undo the evils that Paul VI predicted. We must live lives that are the antithesis of the degradation of human sexuality that is destroying our culture. That means living lives of purity, chastity and fidelity. It means saving sex for marriage. It means rejecting pornography, and everything else that reduces and diminishing the beauty of the marital act. We must become living icons of what human sexuality is suppose to be.

The same goes for marriage. If we are to defend traditional marriage, we must strive to show the world God’s plan for marriage. That means married couples must recognize that their marriage is a vocation. And that they must rely on God’s grace, to be successful. Married couples must strive, with God help, to raise a holy families. To create a family that will be sign of contradiction in a secular culture. A family whose greatest goal and focus is holiness, not wealth, prestige or comfort.

Again these are just two examples. To achieve religious freedom we must live religious lives in all we do. We must seek to be examples of God’s plan for world – counter points to the sinfulness of secular society.

The attacks on religious liberty are clear, and they are growing. But we must not lose heart. We know what we need to do. We need to pray. We need to act courageously in the political sphere. We need to teach with conviction and love and the truth that Christ has given us. And we need to strive to live holy and religious lives. None of these things will be easy, so tonight as we receive Christ in the Eucharist we ask Him to give us the strength that we will need to succeed.

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