“Do not be afraid to be holy! Have the courage and humility to present yourselves to the world determined to be holy, since full, true freedom is born from holiness.” – Saint John Paul II
The phrase “Do not be afraid,” repeated tirelessly by Saint Pope John Paul II, seems to be growing in importance. In a world that promises so much, and provides so little, it is important that we stand up for the truth. Amongst all of the hostility and the attacks, we need to remember the great example of, not only Saint John Paul II, but also,the many saints who stood up for the faith before us.
Not Made for Comfort
Pope Benedict XVI said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” This greatness does not mean changing the world. It does not mean that you have to perform a miracle that the Church uses for your canonization. This greatness means being a disciple of Christ, following His teachings, His example. It means not being afraid to reject the temptations of this world, to reject the promises of this world in exchange for the joyous promises of the eternal life that is to come.
There are so many today that are content to sit back, to remain comfortable. They think that everything going on does not affect them, that we should let people live as they please. This is one of the greatest lies of our generation. This apathy and cultural relativism is dangerous, and it can lead to an even more dangerous path. Silence is not the solution, it’s the problem.
Who Will Speak For You?
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemöller
Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor from Germany, spoke out repeatedly against the Nazis in Germany and this famous quote, now a part of the permanent exhibit at the United States Holocaust Museum, sums up the danger of silence perfectly.
No one realizes just how fragile our rights are, and no one realizes just how hard some are fighting to see our rights revoked.
Last summer I was blessed to intern with First Liberty Institute, the largest non-profit law firm solely dedicated to protecting religious liberty, and since 2012 they have been releasing a book that contains every religious liberty violation in the United States. The first year the book was released, the book contained around 600 violations. Today, just five years later, that number is over 1,400.
The freedom to stand up and defend our right to religious freedom and living in accordance with our conscience is at a pivotal point. The silence of ourselves, and those around us, could lead to a much more drastic climate.
Freedom is Not Just Political
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been requesting the Fortnight for Freedom since 2012. Between June 21st and July 4th, churches across the country pray for religious freedom in the United States and around the world.
The readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time could not have been more in line with the bishops’ call. The first reading reminds us that “the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” The gospel says to “fear no one,” because if God cares for the smallest of creatures, and He cares for us so much that “even all the hairs [on our] head are counted.”
In a world that is so lost, that seems to move further and further away from God and towards a world of self-gratification and what many believe is freedom, it is time that we take a stand. The Gospel this week said, “So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Will You Die for Him?
Now is not a time to be politically correct. It is not a time to fall to the pressures of our generation, of those around us. It is a time to treat those we encounter with compassion, love, and respect, but it is also a time to stand up against the lies. No matter what this world tells us, no matter how strong the opposition is, our Lord’s truth will always win, because He has already won. Sin may have come into the world with the fall, but our God loves each of us so much, that He sent His only son to die on a cross for you and me. And as many have been told, and have heard I am sure, Christ would have died on that cross for you, even if you were the only one to save.
If our Lord can die on a cross for each one of us, shouldn’t we be willing to die for Him? There are so many saints who were martyred over the centuries in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we are to seek holiness, if we are to seek true freedom and happiness, we must also be willing to lose everything, to give up everything and follow Him, just as He called His disciples to do.
Only our Lord knows what will happen in the future. You may not be physically martyred today, but there will come a time when we are called to stand up for Him. When the time comes and we are confronted with the choice to deny Him, and deny our faith, what will we choose in that moment?
The Church Is Irreplaceable
Society in America and around the world no longer sees religion as necessary. Recently the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said that he wants Facebook groups to take over the rolls that churches and little league teams once held. This is impossible. No matter how secular a society becomes, nothing will ever be able to replace the Church. The God-shaped hole living in each of our hearts and souls will never, and can never, be filled by anything or anyone other than God.
Those who seek to push religion out of the public sphere, into the privacy of the home and force us to essentially live two lives, one of faith in the home, and secularism in the workplace, is forcing Christians and anyone of faith to conform to the demands of a secular society.
Do Not Be Afraid
So, as Saint Pope John Paul II says, “do not be afraid” because the true freedom we desire is only achievable through Christ, no matter what anyone says. The most important freedom we need to protect is the freedom of religion, especially amidst the increasing hostility.
Saint John Paul II reminds us, “Religion and peace go together. Religious belief and practice cannot be separated from the defense of the image of God in every human being.” If we hope to maintain the same rights, freedoms, and civil society we have known and loved, we must seek to protect our faiths, no matter our religious depth or background.
It is time we take a stand. It is a time that we realize that the freedoms we take for granted as Americans today may not always be guaranteed. If we do not speak out now, who will be there to speak out for us when we need it most?