In what is, without a doubt, the clearest message I’ve read to date concerning the current struggle for religious freedom in the U.S., Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia makes it very clear and easy to understand what we’re currently facing. From his July 4th Homily, this is a great read especially given all the hyperbole and back and forth going on in the media.
This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty — religious or otherwise.
I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason: Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.
Here’s the second reason: The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?
Taken from his Homily during the July 4th Fortnight for Freedom closing mass, these words perfectly sum up what is at stake.
Here’s what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person — in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.
When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God — generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will — by the example of our lives — fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.