Be thankful for the true source of freedom

As we prepare to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends on Thursday, I know that the results of our national elections two weeks ago are still on the minds of many. There are different ways to reflect on the outcome of the campaigns and the important issues that we discussed and debated over the past months. However, in light of the upcoming holiday, I would like to share with you the ways in which I am thankful for the freedom we are accorded as faithful citizens in the United States and the responsibility that always comes with this freedom.

Because freedom is inherently linked to responsibility, we must educate ourselves concerning the many public issues that face our families, communities and nation. This is a responsibility that does not end on Election Day, but continues throughout our lives. We have a right to advocate for certain truths because we have a responsibility to do so.

Accordingly, we have the right to safeguard the freedoms granted to us by the Constitution. This year, as a Church and with many others, we have been working to protect our religious liberty, which continues to be threatened by the current administration. The HHS mandate, unless repealed, will force employers, including Church institutions, to provide insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraceptives or pay large penalties. All of these procedures and drugs violate the dignity of the marital act and, in the case of abortificiants, kills innocent young lives. We have the responsibility to ensure that our government protects our right to follow our consciences. Religious freedom was the motivation of so many of the pilgrims that first settled here, as well as the English Catholics who made their home in what is now Maryland. I urge you to take their legacy seriously and continue to fight, to advocate and to protect this freedom.

We must be free as Catholics, not only to worship God in our churches, but also to practice our faith and to follow our consciences in the public square. We must be free to be Catholics as the Lord Jesus intends us to be and to live, including promoting the common good and assisting those in need.

Therefore, we have both the right to oppose any coercive governmental mandates that encroach upon religious liberty and the responsibility to make clear that these policies violate our First Amendment freedoms. We have the right to advocate in the public square for the weakest among us, the unborn, and the responsibility to teach the truth of abortion as an abhorrent and violent attack on innocent life and a threat to our very civilization. We have the right to continue opposing the redefinition of traditional marriage and the responsibility to explain why same-sex unions, if sanctioned by civil law, would be incompatible with both the natural moral law and the teachings of the Church.

It is in light of our ongoing responsibility to uphold the truth that I focus this Thanksgiving on the freedom that I am most thankful for: the freedom that comes with clinging to Christ. Regardless of the results stemming from our fight for the unborn, for families and the definition of marriage, and for religious liberty, it is the Lord who grants us the ultimate true freedom. Think of the many men and women saints who endured no liberty at all in their governments, but still lived lives of authentic holiness because they relied solely on the Truth of God. I am thinking of Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his own life to save the life of another; of Thomas More who witnessed to the truth of marriage before Henry VIII regardless of the consequences; and, ultimately, of Jesus Christ Who was reviled and condemned to death, totally innocent as He was, but through His death, saved the world.

The Servant of God, Father Luigi Giussani wrote, "This is man's choice: either he conceives of himself as free from the whole universe and dependent only on God, or free from God and therefore a slave of every circumstance" (Origin of the Christian Claim). We can choose to be downtrodden because of the attacks that continue on innocent life and our faith or we can choose, as Father Giussani proposes, to depend on our Lord as we continue to follow Him faithfully and witness to our faith in the public square.

At Thanksgiving, I thank the Lord for the service of the men and women in public office. I thank Him for the many men, women and children of faith who faithfully participate in the public square and live according to their consciences. Most of all, I thank the Lord for the gift of Himself, the very source of all true human freedom.

Please join me this Thanksgiving in praising the Lord for the many blessings He bestows on us as individuals, as families, and as a - diocesan family! With gratitude, let us continue to proclaim the truth in love and always point to Jesus Christ, the One Savior of the World!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012