Let me start off by saying that it is good to be back from vacation! I have truly missed you all! That being said this past week has given us much to discuss.
Over the past week we had two events occur that relate directly to us in the United States. First, and most notably, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as it has been dubbed was upheld by the Supreme Court. It was upheld not under the Commerce Clause, but as a Tax upon those who do not purchase insurance. The second is something that was relatively less well known and not covered by the media. Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was proclaimed Venerable. This is the step just before being proclaimed Blessed on the Journey toward Canonization. I will touch more on Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen in a moment.
I would like to first set the stage, so to speak, by looking at today’s readings. In our Second Reading from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians we are hear that “our Lord Jesus Christ, ...though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) What a tremendous gift and an important message! In order to become rich through Christ, however, we must not allow what the world considers “richness” to consume us. We must remember our own poverty so that our storerooms may be emptied for Christ himself to fill!
God’s love for the poor is found throughout scripture and we find an example of it in todays Gospel. The Gospel begins with a synagogue official comes to Jesus to ask his help for his dying child. Of course, Jesus does not hesitate to go and help. As Jesus is on the way to the officials house a woman afflicted with hemorrhages, who in the eyes of all, especially the synagogue official, would have been considered unclean approaches and touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. We have to be mindful that those who would have touched or been touched by such a woman would have been declared unclean as well, which would make Jesus unclean in their eyes. Instead of ignoring this draw of his power he stops and searches her out, mindful that the officials daughter is still dying and the healing of the woman had taken place already. This was no oversight. The Lord wanted this woman to know that she was every bit as important to him as the synagogue official and his daughter, she was loved. The word comes that the child has died and that Jesus is no longer needed. Despite the mocking and insult the Lord invites the official to have faith and goes to the house and raises the child from the dead. In a way, the death of the child can be seen as the symbolic death of a way of thinking. The woman with hemorrhages was worthy of love and care despite peoples belief to the contrary and Christ not only raised the child from the dead, but raised all who were pressed in on him to a new understanding of God’s love for the poor and suffering.
The Catholic Church has, from the earliest beginnings of this great country, sought to continue this mission of love for the poor and suffering. Through hospitals, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, Catholic Schools and Universities, and the many other institutions and parishes that serve not only Catholics, but all who come and are in need. With the upholding of the Affordable Care Act many of these institutions are threatened. Is universal access to healthcare important, absolutely! There is much that needs to be done to help make health care affordable and accessible, especially to the poor, the elderly and the sick. The problem with the ACA, as I have mentioned before, is that it tells the Catholic institutions mentioned above and many others that in order to continue our service to the poor we have to accept paying for and providing contraceptive services, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs which as a church we consider gravely immoral, through our insurance policies or face what the Supreme Court has ruled as a Tax. The accommodation offered by the Administration does nothing to protect individual Catholics who wish to opt out or dioceses and Catholic Institutions who are self insured. Not to mention that the notion that Insurance companies will provide the aforementioned services without the Church institution covering the cost of the coverage defies logic. The money must come from somewhere, wether it is through increased Insurance rates or through tax dollars. This issue tells the Church that it cannot work in the world unless it lets go of some of it’s beliefs and adapts to what society deems to be moral. The use the Statistic that 90% of Catholic women use Contraception. This is a highly flawed statistic that keeps getting bantered about by the administration and the media. In the words of now Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “Moral principles do not depend on majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even when everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”
Do not be fooled, we are being told that Freedom of Religion = Freedom of Worship. Peg Luksik put it this way in an article on Catholic.org:
“Let's put it into sports terms.
Instead of freedom to root for your favorite NFL team, you will now have the freedom to cheer for that team. That means that while you are in the stadium of your team during a scheduled game, you may cheer your head off. But once you leave the stadium, you may not display the team name or logo in any form in your school or in your workplace. You may not wear any clothing that includes the name or logo of the team to any public event. You may not engage in discussions with others about the merits of your team. You may not invite others to join you in becoming fans of that team. And you may not compare the accomplishments of your team to those of any other team.
In effect, when you leave the stadium, you must leave your allegiance to your team behind.Unfortunately, the situation is even worse. The rules above only apply to the fans of SOME teams. So the fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars are required to follow the rules above, while the fans of the Indianapolis Colts are not only permitted to continue publicly supporting their team, they are given the ability to force Jaguar fans to participate in activities that will help the Colts. Jaguars fans must attend seminars to learn about the merits of the Colts. They must attend at least one Colts game each season or pay a fine. They must express their support of the Colts whenever asked about the topic, or face penalties. They must not, under any circumstances, do or say anything to convert anyone from supporting the Colts to supporting the Jaguars.”
My friends, I invite you to join with me, with our bishops and with our Church as we continue to pray that our Religious Freedom will be protected and respected. May we never be hindered from following the example Christ has set before us in serving the poor and suffering.