Unity and Witness

Unity and Witness

  • Today in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
  • 20 January 2019

The week of prayer for Christian Unity began last Friday and continues until next Friday on January 25th with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The divisions among Christians began as far back as Saints Peter and Paul, so it is fitting that this week of prayer conclude on the con- version of that great persecutor of Church, who became her greatest advocate and instrument of expansion into the gentile world. But many divisions have continued to plague us through the millennia. The various heresies sapped our virility during the early centuries and the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Church in the 11th century and the Protestant and Catholic divide in the 16th. With all the sins of our division, there is at least one thing that Christians throughout the world can all agree: God is a God of the living, not a God of the dead! The Gospel of Life clearly proclaims that Jesus comes among us to give life, and life to the full! So the gift of life, which is given to us by God alone, is one of the core beliefs of Christianity and the right to life is foundational to the basic values of every Christian. Over the centuries, these values have been translated into the cultures and political structures of many nations throughout the world, our own included.
January 22nd is the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade (1973). It is a particular day of penance and prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. “We are reminded that as God recognized each of us before we were born, and called us by name, so too may we recognize the value of each human life and pledge ourselves to continue to defend and nurture God’s greatest gift to us” (1992 Respect Life Manual, National Conference of Catholic Bishops).
Although the right to life is established in our Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by law in our Constitution, it has been politicized like so many other values. Christians and other people of good will can scarcely give voice to their values for fear of being branded as bigots or hatemongers. We are told to keep our religion private, that is to say, personal, and not to impose our values on others. Anyone who is offended by our adherence to and proclamation of the Gospel of Life would have a legitimate complaint against us. Christians are seen as a treat to the harmony of the society and the acceptance of differing attitudes and lifestyles.
None of this is new to us! We have been through this be- fore with the Christian opposition to a host of social evils from the days of the Roman Empire and into our own time. The Gospel is compelling and life-changing. It is indeed a threat to the established and accepted order of things. This is as it should be and as it was intended to be. It is why they crucified Jesus in the first place, and it is the reason that opposition, often violent opposition, continues in our own time. Our Lord is very clear on this point! He has come not to bring peace, but the sword – fathers against their sons and mothers against their daughters. The “Peace” of the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword – it cuts bone and marrow, in swift and terrible ways. Its power lives in the Truth of the Word and the testimony of the faithful. We have no need for the weapons the world relies upon; we have the light that penetrates the darkness. If many of our young people have left the Church and are seeking other paths, it is not because they have walked away; it is because they have been abandoned – set adrift in a sea of complacency, to fend for themselves without the benefit of consistent and faithful witness. The light of Christ and the truth of the Church is the same: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Perhaps we have just hidden it under a bushel basket. We have preferred personal piety over courageous testimony. When we have the fortitude to build the city on the hill and put the light on the lampstand, all in the house will be able to see.