A few days ago, I read in the May issue of Catalyst an enlightening article written by Rick Hinshaw, the editor of The Long Island Catholic magazine. The title itself is enough to make one want to read on: “The Secularist Assault On America’s Moral Consensus.” The author traces the various steps taken by secularists, from the seventies onward, to wage a relentless war on religious freedom.
Their attacks have been, and continue to be, directed mostly against the Catholic Church, because she is seen as the last bulwark of morality based on natural law and on the Gospel. From the onset, the weapon of choice in this war has been the one of “portraying their opponents as narrowly sectarian religious zealots trying to ‘impose their morality’ on a pluralistic society.”’ For good measure, secularists have pointed out repeatedly that the Catholic Church was “violating ‘constitutional separation of church and state’ in order to impose Vatican-dictated religious teachings upon all Americans.”
The gullible, the poorly-informed and the non-informed might easily see secularists as the defenders of a form of freedom that lets everyone do as he/she pleases. Obviously, this is an effective tactic that can be applied, with minor adaptations, to browbeat opponents into silent submission, embarrassment and/or total disengagement.
Regardless of the issue of the day, (“reproductive rights” including abortion, same sex marriage, enforcement by the HHS of Obamacare’s mandate trampling freedom of conscience, etc,) those who insist on living according to traditional values and adherence to the tenets that Christ has entrusted to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church are branded with disparaging labels: from the benign “retrograde,” “old-fashioned,” to the scathing “bigots spewing out hate speech.” After all, the worst heresy for secularism is diversity of thought.
This is the unpleasant situation in which we, believers, have to live nowadays. But sadly many shy away from their existential duty of bearing witness to Christ and to his Church and, lacking the will to stand up for anything that might be controversial or politically incorrect, they try to blend in. They cannot handle the risk of being silenced, or put out of business, or fired from their job, or crushed in any other way. One would hope that the weekly exposure to the words of truth and life heard in church, on Sunday, would generate in their souls a mixture of shame and anguish. Such unpleasant feelings might be the gentle way adopted by the Lord to help them return to the path of justice and truth.
How did we allow the secularists to highjack the moral soul of this country and of the western world? It happened while we were in our “upper room,” behind securely locked doors, hunkered down for fear of them.
Today, Pentecost Sunday, if we notice the presence of shame and anguish in our souls on account of our disengagement and cowardliness, we might want to tally, roughly, how many Pentecost Sundays we have celebrated thus far in our lifetime, while ignoring the “tongues as of fire,” the “strong driving wind” and the unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit. We might want also to remind ourselves that “we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” We drank it when we were baptized and confirmed. We drank it every time we renewed our baptismal promises and every time we became one with the Lord Jesus by eating and drinking his body and blood in Holy Communion.
So, now, I want to address, with burning passion in my heart, all those here present who want the doors of their hiding place to be flung open. I want to address, with a mind flooded by the light of Christ’s truth, all those who cannot live any longer with that unbearable mixture of anguish and shame in their soul.
The most reoccurring sentence in the Bible, from cover to cover, notwithstanding minor variations, is this: “Do not be afraid!” “Do not be afraid” was the reoccurring theme also of the long pontificate of St. John Paul II, who was instrumental in defeating fierce and most powerful enemies of the Church.
Today, we can have another one of our “bland, uncommitted Pentecost Sundays” or we can “drink of the one Spirit” and do so intentionally, fully aware that, if we let the Holy Spirit take hold of our entire being, body and soul, mind and heart, we would be thoroughly changed. The Holy Spirit would expose us to new ways and new situations, some very painful, some very exhilarating, but all stunning and transforming.
Speaking of drinking of the Holy Spirit, the reaction at that first Pentecost was one of amazement and shock as we see in the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-11). However, if we read the next verse (Acts 2: 13) we learn of the reaction of those who knew how afraid and how cowardly those disciples of Jesus were:
But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”
Drinking of the one Spirit, fully aware of what He can do, would have on us the same effect of drinking too much new wine. We would break through the shell of prudence, fear, worry, and hesitation that has hurt our beloved Church, all of us, and which allows our country and our western world to live in the darkness of relativism and secularism and to run adrift without the moral rudder of God’s law. Such an act of courage on our part would turn prayer into reality.
The refrain: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth” would be more than a simple, formal supplication; it would truly happen!