Posts Tagged ‘Conscience’
Today’s first reading continues from the Book of Exodus. In today’s selection, we see Moses erect the Dwelling of the LORD, as God commanded. In this Dwelling Moses placed the Ten Commandments, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. (Exodus 40)
Notice how the Ten Commandments serve for the Israelites as the very presence of God in their midst. The stones or tablets containing the Commandments of God are treated with the utmost reverence, treated as if they are not a cold word chiseled into stone, but as a Living Word that continues to speak, guide, accompany, and direct the people of Israel.
Notice how the Commandments of God are at the heart of the community, indeed, The Heart of the People of Faith. Just as this was true in the early days of God revealing Himself to Moses, it holds true for all times. God is the Supreme Law Giver, because God is the Creator. God has created all in complete harmony, and thus wishes to reveal to us how to live in harmony with this natural order which is written in every human heart.
Nothing has changed from then until today. God and His Word and Law are still the heart of the community. That is why our Founding Fathers got it right when they wrote into our Constitution and established Religious Freedom as a founding principle of a well ordered society. A well ordered society and the laws that govern it are built upon the natural law and the very Law of God.
We must be alert to those who wish to diminish Religious Freedom to a simple understanding of freedom of worship. Worship is fine and good, but can quickly be restricted to the private sphere. Freedom of Religion has implications for all of the human family, for all of society, and surely for a well-ordered society according to the natural law.
Once God revealed Himself to Moses, and through the Ten Commandments to His people, He went even further in sending us His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Thus to know and follow Jesus is to follow the way of Truth.
Once Jesus came among us through the Incarnation, He did not abandon us. He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, leaving us the gift of His Holy Spirit, His Church and the Sacraments. Today, Christ remains in a privileged and sacred place as Eucharist in the tabernacles of churches throughout the world – very similar to the Ten Commandments that rested as the accompanying presence in the Dwelling Place of Moses.
In the person of Christ, God has pitched His tent permanently in our midst. Our God is faithful. Our God is with us. God never leaves us, and is always ready to be our strength and guide. God has created each of us with a conscience to know Him and to know His way, truth, law, life.
This conscience helps us to know what is right and wrong; to know good and evil; and to choose accordingly. Our conscience is created to know Truth, and is drawn to an ordered life that respects the natural law.
Here is where a critical point of correction is needed in our time. People are not free to pick and choose and do simply as they wish. We are created to follow conscience, which means to follow the LORD and His way. Thus, conscience needs to be properly formed and respected, both individually and communally.
Let us pray for wisdom in discerning the Truth over the false messages and false prophets of our day. Let us pray for the grace to recognize the way God is accompanying us today. Let us pray for a proper understanding of Religious Freedom. Let us pray that the laws that govern us today, and those who are responsible for making these laws remain firmly grounded in the Supreme Law Giver, from Whom all justice and good order flows.
I have had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time recently with our young Church. Last night 26 young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation at Corpus Christi in Newcastle. The youth were from St. Anthony in Upton, St. Matthew in Hulett and Corpus Christi in Newcastle.
This group last night warmed my heart with their attention and participation during Mass. It shows they received a very good preparation (catechesis) as well as evidence to their relationship with Christ (evangelization.)
The challenge for them and all of us in this Year of Faith is to not only know our faith, but to grow in our personal love for Christ. It is our relationship with Christ and our desire to show our love for Christ in concrete ways that truly matters.
A great deal of focus in the homily last night was also on the Spirit of Truth, given to us by Christ. This Year of Faith challenges us to believe in an absolute truth, a truth that is objective, eternal, and universal (applies to all people of all time.)
Our faith teaches us that this Truth is ultimately, the person, Jesus Christ. This Truth is written in every human heart, and is the truth every person seeks. Once we discover this truth, we have an obligation to live the truth in love.
It is the same Spirit given us by Christ that guides our conscience with this truth to know what is right and what is wrong. (Thus, this truth is objective and absolute.) It is the same Spirit that then gives us the courage to do what we know is right according to this truth.
In our culture today, many want to deny that there is such a thing as absolute truth; for to do so makes it much easier for each person to do what ever they wish, what ever they think is right. This of course is a wrong notion of true freedom. St. Paul teaches that “It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) Such freedom is rooted in Truth, not the latest opinion polls.
Live the Truth! Life the Faith!
During Tuesday’s Vespers Service for the new Archbishop of Denver, a Scripture passage was proclaimed that seemed to speak very clearly to the recent workings of my own interior life. Here is the text:
Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:9-11)
What is most striking in this passage is its direct and clear language. “hate evil…hold on to what is good.” We should be as direct and clear in our practice. In my own prayer these past few weeks, such clarity and direct ‘language’ has been my own experience.
The LORD has made clear to me the practices in my own life that are holding me back in my growth in holiness. The damaging nature of these attitudes and practices has been made crystal clear. The LORD is giving the grace to ‘hate’ these things, as well as the ‘grace’ to turn away, and to ‘hold on to what is good.’
Prayer gives God the ‘opening’ to reveal to us the error of our ways. He does so with great love, for He wants us to return to Him and the life and love He offers. As we become aware of our sinful ways, we also see how these behaviors offend God. This is what leads to true contrition and sorrow, and with God’s grace, grants us the necessary resolve to amend our ways.
I know that God can and does work ‘any way He chooses’, but I wonder if these ‘graces’ would have been ‘recognized’ or ‘acted’ upon had it not been for the grace of these days of going deeper in prayer? Thus, I believe a part of what the LORD is calling all of us to in these days is a renewed attention to our relationship with Him. I believe this renewed attention is meant to be primarily through prayer and the sacraments.
Part of what ails our Church and our society today is a dulled conscience. When our conscience is dulled by making too many accommodations to the ‘ways of the world’ that fly in the face of the ‘ways of God,’ as individuals, we experience an unintended separation, or distancing from God. The cumulative effect then is that society as a whole experiences greater and greater division, unrest, even upheaval.
Listen to what the Second Vatican Council document on the Church In The Modern World (Gaudium Et Spes 16) has to say in this regard:
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged. (Romans 2:15-16) … Hence, the more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by the objective standards of moral conduct.
Prayer and Sacrament put us in deeper communion with the Author of this Natural Law. Prayer and Sacrament give us the proper ‘sensitivity’ to this Voice within us that says: “Do good.” “Avoid evil.” Prayer and Sacrament give us the grace to abide by this Voice, and thus to grow in ‘sincere love and mutual affection.’
I hope and pray our parishes are already implementing practical ways to renew the prayer and sacramental life of our people, as our Diocesan Strategic Plan calls for. The renewal of the Church, and strengthening the moral fiber of our society begins and is accomplished one person at a time.
The LORD is calling: “Follow me.” Let us hear and answer His call as He leads us to Himself and to lives that are capable of experiencing the ‘fullness of joy’!
I recently ran across a quote on the website for Salt & Light TV, the Catholic Television Network in Canada. It is a brilliant, hope-filled message addressed by Vaclav Havel in 1990 as he greeted John Paul II and welcomed him to Prague, Czechoslovakia shortly after that country’s liberation from Communism.
“I am not sure I know what a miracle is. In spite of this, I dare say that, at this moment, I am participating in a miracle: the man who six months ago was arrested as an enemy of the state stands here today as the president of that state, and bids welcome to the first pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church to set foot in this land…
“I am not sure that I know what a miracle is. In spite of this, I dare say that at this moment I am participating in a miracle: in a country devastated by the ideology of hatred, the messenger of love has arrived; in a country devastated by the government of the ignorant, the living symbol of culture has arrived; in a country that, until a short time ago, was devastated by the idea of confrontation and division in the world, the messenger of peace, dialogue, mutual tolerance, esteem and calm understanding, the messenger of fraternal unity in diversity has arrived.
“During these long decades, the Spirit was banished from our country. I have the honor of witnessing the moment in which its soil is kissed by the apostle of spirituality.”
“Welcome to Czechoslovakia, Your Holiness.”
During that same historic Papal Visit to Prague in April 1990, President Vaclav Havel welcomed John Paul II to a gathering of the cultural and non-Catholic leaders by reminding him of a line from a poem written by then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla when he was Archbishop of Cracow in 1974. Havel spoke these moving words:
“In one of your poems you asked: ‘Can history ever run counter to conscience?’ What you intended to say in that exclamation is clear: that history cannot run counter to conscience forever. You were right and with you all those who did not lose hope.”
This quote seems particularly applicable to the effort of many in our country for now 39 years who have worked to overturn Roe v. Wade in order to establish a “more just society”, which honors the sanctity of all life, born and unborn. Indeed, a nation that allows the legal destruction of unborn, human life, is acting against the national conscience.
Truly, those who pray and work according to conscience are helping to lay bare the conscience of a nation to help it correct a great injustice, namely the taking of innocent life. We believe and trust that “history cannot run counter to conscience forever.” So, take heart, people of faith. Stay the course, persevere in faith and goodwill. Trust in God, and He will act! (Psalm 37)
The legal killing of unborn children is offensive to the human (corporate) conscience. Such injustice will be over-ruled one day! As Deacon Vernon Dobleman said so well last night in his address at the Pro-Life Dinner, leading up to today’s Mass and march: “We must pray, study, and act” together. United in the one moral voice of truth, we will see a victory in this arena one day!
This weekend, a time-sensitive request will hopefully run in our parish bulletins. This Nationwide Bulletin Insert is seeking the active input of our Catholic population. As most of you hopefully know by now, our U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a rule requiring almost all private health plans to cover contraception and sterilizations as “preventive services” for women. This action is a part of implementing the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the new health care reform law).
This new rule so narrowly defines religous exemption from the rule that very few entities will qualify for the exemption. Meaning, the Catholic Church, its parishes, colleges, hospitals, will not be exempt from this new rule. The rule will also require insurance plans to cover “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
The public comment period on this interim final rule ends September 30. If you wish to view more information, and learn how to contact HHS as well as your local representatives in Congress, you may view more information through our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website here. You will find here the same information the bulletin insert will lead you.
Please help us voice our objections to participate in this new ruling. Go to the USCCB website in the link provided above, or simply follow the instructions provided in your parish bulletin insert this weekend. Remember, you must act before the end of September 30.
Below is the text of the talk and prayer I gave at a prayer rally today at the State Capital building in Cheyenne in anticpation of a new legislative session. It is very challenging to develop arguments that are faithful to our Church teaching which are “valid” in the public forum. In this forum, any references to God, Scripture, Church teaching of any kind, are readily dismissed. So, what follows is my first attempt to make such an argument.
I welcome this opportunity to be with you today as we come together to pray for our nation, our beloved State of Wyoming and our leaders. I welcome as well the opportunity to address some of the present challenges before us.
Central to many of our challenges is a proper understanding of the dignity of the human person. Key to addressing this challenge is a proper understanding of the legitimate relationship between politics and faith and a proper understanding of the long-standing and legitimate role of the separation of Church and state.
With your permission, I will offer a few thoughts, and close my reflections with a prayer.
I wish to offer some thoughts primarily for the deliberation of our legislators as they begin a new legislative session. I do so in this setting not only as a Bishop of the Catholic Church, but also as an American citizen. I offer these reflections as one who cherishes my freedom to believe and worship as I choose, while at the same time, honoring the religious freedom of others.
SACRED ORIGIN OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: “Natural Law”
In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers held that Truths are “self-evident”. They stated that individual human rights are endowed by our Creator. With such language and wisdom, our Founding Fathers acknowledged a Sacred Origin of human rights. With such language and wisdom, they also seemed to grasp the fact that the Truths endowed by the Creator are “self-evident”, meaning; they are attainable to every man and woman, of any and all times, through the power of human reason. In other words, there is a “natural law” written on the hearts of every human person. This “natural law” is at the heart of sound society; it is at the heart of our human dignity.
It is this universal truth – “self-evident” to any and all people – that is at the heart of legitimate laws that govern nations and people. Any law not subject to and flowing from the “natural law” is in essence not a true law – and when and where such laws exist, by nature, they do harm to the human person, which is to do harm to society at large. A perfect example is our nation’s present law legalizing abortion.
The challenge in a democracy such as our own is when truth is defined by the “majority”. Such truth is not universal, because it is subject to change over time; subject to change with each election season. This is why it is critical for our laws to be rooted in the “natural law” – universal truth – which is discernible by human reason to people of every time and age.
With this language and wisdom outlined by our Founding Fathers, I would pose a question to the American people and public leaders of our own time: If we acknowledge, as did our Founding Fathers, that our individual human rights are endowed by our Creator, and thus have a Sacred Origin, does it not necessarily follow that the individual who bears these rights has his or her foundation in the same Sacred Origin? The obvious answer to this is “Yes”.
With such logic and appeal to the “natural law” written in the hearts of every human person, we come to understand the sacredness of every human life. The same “natural law” leads us to acknowledge not only the Sacred Origins of human life, but also the human origins of each individual, this human origin being the love of a husband and wife, one man, one woman.
Church and Government Working Together:
Church and Government share common interests; the human person and the good of society. A long standing priority of the Church has been to define and defend the dignity of every human person, while at the same time a primary goal of government is the safety and security of its citizenry and the right ordering of society.
As I understand it, the role of separation between Church and state is to provide that no one religion dictates to the Government, and vice-versa, that the Government not impede the legitimate freedom of any individual to worship as he or she chooses. However, such legitimate checks and balances do not mean the Church is not allowed to help guide and shape the moral conscience of our public life.
The Church does not dictate to government, nor does it desire to, but she does have a legitimate voice and role to play in helping those in leadership understand the truest nature of the human person, whose person and relationships are at the heart of properly ordered society.
Part of the work and teaching of the Church is to help expound the Truth and to properly form conscience according to this Truth that is known by human reason and enlightened by faith. This work goes on in the private life of every believer, including those elected to public office. It is in this private sphere of faith that the Church properly teaches and helps every human person develop to their full potential and understand their proper relationship and responsibility to others, to the world, and to God. It is from this private practice and formation in the faith that we all enter into the public realm of politics.
Thus, the electorate has an obligation to vote according to their conscience, and elected officials also carry a heavy responsibility to bring their own personal conscience and convictions, (properly formed through faith) to their public duty which is the promotion and defense of the human person and the good of society.
My dear friends, I wish to assure you of my prayers for all our people, the citizens of this great state, and the people we elect to represent us. I promise to do my best to be a sound moral voice helping to properly form the values and consciences of our people, and to assist our legislators any way I can to properly understand the present day human condition as well as the “natural law” that guides us all.
Please allow me to simply close with a prayer, in the language of my Roman Catholic Tradition:
Good and Gracious God, Creator of all, hear our prayer this day for our nation, state and our duly elected officials. Grant us Your guiding Light to know the laws You have written in our hearts. Grant us the grace and Wisdom to know Your Truth, Jesus Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life of every person. Grant that we may walk always in the paths of His Truth, that the laws of our land may mirror Your Divine Justice. Grant that we may grow in our reverence for the sacredness of the life You create. Help us to live in right relationship with each other, the world You created, and especially with You, our Creator. We ask all this in the name of Jesus your Son, who is Lord forever and ever.