In the final chapter of the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus poses a question to Peter — a question that is really posed to each person in every age who wishes to follow the Lord: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” Jesus would also note to His would-be disciples, “Anyone who prefers father or mother is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10: 37-39) I draw attention to these statements of Our Lord because the people of this age once again must answer the question posed by Jesus and decide what the cost will be.
As disciples sent out to bear witness to Jesus and be salt for the earth, we must recognize the consequences of such zeal. “If the world hates you know that it has hated me before you.” (John 15:18) The burdens placed upon the shoulders of every disciple require one to willingly and freely embrace all the Lord has taught and commanded, “If you love Me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
A few years ago I was asked a question about a Catholic’s responsibility in temporal affairs. In particular, I was asked to guide a soul questioning his involvement in public service. This individual was serving as a representative of a civil entity and questioning his obligations as a Catholic, as a disciple of Jesus, within his daily responsibilities. He was growing in the richness of the faith and realized the compromising positions that he was being placed in every day. He was feeling uncomfortable, and realized that it was becoming more difficult to integrate the two realities.
Today, many of Jesus’ disciples serve in the public forum and make decisions of great influence upon society. They are often confronted with the same question as the person mentioned above, or as Peter. Yes, we are called to be light and salt, but when we are unable to bear such witness, what is next? How do we authentically live our faith and participate in this world’s affairs?
Many would have us believe there can be a separation from the practice of religion and daily living. The fruit and consequence of such a belief is sadly being played out today in public affairs and policies. Anti-life policies are becoming part of the fabric of our government because of silence, indifference, fear, greed and a lust for power and unbridled pleasure.
How did all of this start? It started when God and His teachings were removed from the heart of man and his daily life in order to embrace more so-called “freedoms.” Man’s history truthfully tells story of such choices and actions: The fall of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, Moses, Jesus, the Fall of Egypt, Jerusalem, Rome and Greece. Today the scenario continues. As nations and peoples embrace a contraceptive mentality, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and divorce as legitimate “freedoms,” the continual breakdown of culture will inevitably continue and civilizations will collapse.
What do we do? Do we say nothing, do nothing, stay out of the political arena, keep our faith separate from temporal affairs, not challenge the leadership of the day when it proposes laws contrary to the Gospel and Life? Do we as disciples of Jesus and citizens of our respective countries sit back and allow the fabric of Life continually be unwoven? Do we negate our call to authentic discipleship? Do we allow the continual disintegration of society? Listen to the words of Blessed John Paul II as he speaks to the heart of the issue: “We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’ We find ourselves not only ‘faced with’ but necessarily ‘in the midst of’ this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.” (The Gospel of Life, 28)
Every individual has a responsibility to promote the culture of life. We are given a share in the mission of Jesus who came that all might have life and have it abundantly. Our worship of God is not contained only within the walls of our Church buildings, but must be offered in every part of our lives. Pope Benedict XVI speaks to this in paragraph eighty-three of Sacramentum Caritatis:
“Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.”
It is our responsibility to bring our worship of the One God into every forum of our lives. No element of life is absent of His presence: it is meant to flow into each aspect of human existence and thus bring light and truth. In every part of this beloved nation faithful citizens are making decisions that will lay foundation for future generations. What legacy do we wish to leave? What will be said of this generation? Will they speak of our courage to do what is right and true? Will they see the bravery of those who stood against the darkness of immorality, corruption, greed, and absolute power?
We can make a difference! We must make a difference!
The individual referenced in the opening of this reflection made a choice that forever changed their life. What will you do? What influence will you offer? How will you be salt for the earth?
By virtue of our sharing in Christ’s royal mission, our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through the service of charity, which finds expression in personal witness, various forms of volunteer work, social activity and political commitment. (Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life 87)