Be Made Clean
All the articles in our Musical Musings pages deal directly with some musical or liturgical topic.
This one doesn't — but we feel the issue is so vitally important, and the content so masterfully presented, that we, as a Catholic publishing company, are eager to share it with you.
This homily was delivered by The Rev. Mr. David Galvin at Saint James Catholic Church in Charles Town, West Virginia, on the weekend of February 11/12, 2012.
On March 15, 1790, George Washington penned a beautiful letter to Roman Catholics living in the United States of America.
He thanked them for their kind words and sentiments towards him and left a perpetual reminder to other citizens of the great gift that we as Roman Catholics gave to our nation.
He said specifically:
I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance that they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed.
It's obvious the nation owes a great debt to Catholics in the colonies who worked and sacrificed for the ideals and vision of our new country.
As Washington gazed upon the future of our nation, he recognized the incredible gift our freedom could bring.
The prospect of national prosperity now before us is truly animating, and ought to excite the exertions of all good men to establish and secure the happiness of their country, in the permanent duration of its freedom and independence.
America, under the smiles of Divine Providence, the protection of a good government, and the cultivation of manners, morals, and piety, cannot fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence, in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home and respectability abroad.
George Washington certainly was prophetic in his understanding of the potential of our nation.
As we struggled with great moral dilemmas here and abroad, we continued to hold together as a nation.
When during the time of Abraham Lincoln, the issue of 'states rights' and slavery erupted into Civil War, we, through God's Divine Mercy, were able to endure as a nation and when called upon during the great tyrannies of the first half of the 20th century, we were able to contribute to the cessation of many deplorable crimes.
Catholic men and women sacrificed and died along with other men and women of this nation through each one of these great struggles.
Coming out of World War II and entering into the Cold War, it became apparent that our nation was being called upon to lead the world in an ever increasing and broadening way.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized this call to leadership and he also acknowledged the need for restraint.
From where would this restraint come?
Through the incredible and heroic work of the Knights of Columbus, President Eisenhower would amend the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag to include the words, one nation, under God.
In writing a letter of thanks to the Knights of Columbus, President Eisenhower expressed,
We are particularly thankful to you for your part in the movement to have the words "under God" added to our Pledge of Allegiance.
These words will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble.
They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded.
After witnessing the Civil Rights movement, we find ourselves locked in a forty year battle to recognize the dignity of all human life.
We as Roman Catholics have proclaimed for 2000 years the dignity of marriage, the dignity of life, and the blessing of children.
Yet as we attend Mass this day, we find that our contribution to our society is being discarded by our present administration.
This has created great anxiety and fear among men and women of good will.
On January 20th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reaffirmed a rule that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception.
The exemption to provide for 'religious employers' is so narrow that it fails to cover the vast majority of faith based organizations.
Ironically, not even Jesus and His disciples would have qualified, because of their commitment to serve others [USCCB memo].
Jesus cured and cared for those who were in need going beyond his own Jewish community including Samaritans, Gentiles, even the Roman occupiers.
Cardinal-elect, Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, warned that
From a human point of view, we may be tempted to surrender when our government places conception, pregnancy, and birth under the 'Center for Disease Control,' when chemically blocking conception or aborting the baby in the womb is considered a 'right' to be subsidized by others who abhor it.
The situation was not improved when on February 10, the president offered a compromise based on semantics and casuistry.
What are we to do?
We must first examine our consciences as individuals.
I would like to ask every child under 18 years of age and every pregnant woman (with a child in the womb) to please stand.
God loves you, God created you, God formed you in your mother's womb, and the Church continues to form you this day.
We believe in you.
The gift of Baptism has been given because God loves you not because you have earned it or we have earned it but because Christ died on the Cross for you.
You are not an accident, you are not a mistake, you are not a disease or illness, you are not a mass of cells, or a mere piece of flesh.
You are a child made in the image and likeness of God and He is calling you to be his disciple.
You are here because a man and woman were open to the gift of life.
We as Catholic adults rejoice in every one of you and we see no difference between the ones we can see out here and the ones that are still in their mothers' wombs…. Please be seated.
Everyone else, please stand.
We are the men and women addressed by George Washington.
We are the products of the men addressed by President Eisenhower.
We are called this day to once again recognize the dignity of all human life, to recognize God calling each one of us to live a pure chaste life, to recognize that to love God and His creation is the only choice.
We are called to lead our nation spiritually and morally.
We are called to stand now for our country and our faith as our ancestors have before us.
Please be seated.
Our own Bishop, Michael J. Bransfield has written us the following letter:
From its beginning the American system of government has been noted for its respect for rights of conscience and for religious liberty.
The January 20 decision of the United States Department of Health and Human Services regarding private health plans challenges the treasured tradition.
This ruling confirmed that virtually all private health plans, including those of Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools, will be required to include sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
You have perhaps read of the intense dismay of the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic universities, and many commentators with this unnecessary intrusion upon the religious rights of Catholics.
Even those not in agreement with the Catholic Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life recognize that this is a radical break with the tradition of religious liberty and respect for conscience rights.
I ask for your prayers that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.
The present developments should come as no surprise for us.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI warned us that these days were coming in his great letter, Humanae vitae (Of Human Life).
Pope Paul urged all of us to reflect upon the issue of introducing artificial birth control into society.
Listen carefully to his words.
Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.
Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.
Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty?
Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective?
Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.
It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
The great prophesy of Pope Paul VI was ignored by the majority of the western world, including many Catholics.
Yet we come this day and find ourselves being informed that fertility is a disease and that we have to pay for contraception and abortafacients for the majority of employees.
What are we to do?
- Pray — do not undervalue the power of prayer.
How much time are you spending in prayer for our nation — for the administration?
- Penance — Offer sacrifice and penance as they did in Nineveh.
When Jonah predicted that disaster would ensue, the Ninevites took on sackcloth and ashes, changing the predicted outcome.
Penance is not just for Lent.
Highlight an intention — give up a pleasure, set aside a habit, take on a practice.
Offer it for your intention.
- Study the Catechism —
Learn what the Church believes.
Rejoice in our unfailing teaching that respects not only the dignity of human life, but the dignity of human sexuality and the dignity of marriage.
- Write your congressmen, the executive branch, and our Bishop.
Tell the government that we do not accept their mandate, that we will not follow it, and ask them to change it.
And further, let the Bishop know that you appreciate his efforts to change this situation; offer your prayers and support.
- As our pastor, Fr. John Ledford would say, "Go out and share the good news."
Our beliefs are great news and are hope for a wounded and shattered generation.
Let people know.
Not long ago, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which does beautiful work in the fight against breast cancer, decided to stop offering grants to Planned Parenthood, an organization which openly promotes abortion.
While Komen should have been applauded for that bold move, three days later they reversed their decision because of the vehement reaction against the change by congressional pro-abortion advocates and mitigated by social networking sites.
In the Gospel from today' readings, the leper says to Jesus, "If you wish, you can make me clean."
The leper's faith allowed Christ to heal him.
Our faith in Jesus Christ makes a difference.
Our actions make a difference.
I return to George Washington.
Take a close look at the Washington Monument in DC.
About a third of the way up the monument, you will see a distinct line in the marble.
This line was created due to a backlash against Catholics in our Nation during the 1850s.
In a gesture of good will, various states and organizations sent commemorative blocks of stone to be incorporated into the structure.
Among them, Pope Pius IX sent a marble block.
The Know-Nothing Party wanted to exclude Catholics from the United States, particularly the German and Irish immigrants.
Because of the turmoil that they fomented, construction on the monument was halted for 20 years.
When construction eventually continued, the same shade of stone was impossible to procure, and the top two-thirds of the monument are darker in color, with an unintended line marking the variation.
The line is permanent testimony to a fear of the Catholic faith.
Once again a line has been drawn.
We are being told that our religion, our beliefs, our morals do not matter.
But this line can be erased if we are willing to stand together as Catholics, if we reach out to other men and women of good will, if we place our trust in Jesus Christ.
Let us respond in charity, humility and faith and listen to the words of Jesus Christ, "I do will it, be made clean."
He is willing to make our country clean.
If it does not happen, it will not be Christ's fault, it will not be the present administration's fault, and it will be our fault for not standing for our Faith and for our nation.
Let us commit with our lives and we will hear.
Let us proclaim loudly that we do not accept the line and we will hear "I do will it, be made clean."