The HHS Mandate —Anti-Catholic, Anti-Religion, Anti-American
Posted on June 18, 2012
“Our call is to do our part, no matter how small it seems, in building the kingdom of God by what we do & say. It is God’s work, but we are called to do whatever we can to help him.”— Deacon Don Sifferman
Homily, Mark 4:26-34 (11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 6/17/12) by Deacon Don Sifferman
While few of us are farmers by background, most of us have experience with growing things, even if it’s only plants or flowers in or around our houses. In my case, I seem to have a brown thumb – most of what I try to grow dies, but the weeds always grow well.
Jesus uses 2 farming examples in our gospel reading today – the parable of scattering grain seeds & the parable of the mustard seed. In both cases, starting from a small beginning, the results can be significant. Jesus says that both stories tell us about the kingdom of God.
What does Jesus mean by the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is God’s presence. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is beginning, that he is bringing it into being through his presence and through his actions – loving the people in his life.
In the 1st parable, which Jesus compares to the kingdom of God, the farmer scatters seed, & it sprouts & grows. The farmer works hard during the day, tending and nurturing the soil, watering it & keeping the soil lose & free of weeds, but the plant, once established, grows night & day whether or not the farmer is there. God causes the growth. In the 2nd parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds. However, when it is sown, it springs up & becomes the largest of plants.
Jesus’s point is that the kingdom of God is, just like the plants, in God’s hands. We, the workers in the Lord’s fields, are called to do our best to help in God’s work, to create the proper environment for growth, for the growth of the kingdom of God, but it is God who causes the growth in the kingdom. He does wonders with our small efforts. He turns our work, which may seem insignificant to us, into something substantial.
This is a difficult time for those of us who are striving to follow Jesus. I’ve heard it said that Jesus must really trust us to have us live at this time when there are so many challenges to our faith. Recently The Catholic Church has had sexual scandals, and for a number of years have been experiencing the challenge of the U.S. & the rest of the Western world becoming more & more secular.
A result of secularism here in the U.S. is the recent HHS mandate, requiring church organizations like hospitals, schools and social service organizations like Catholic Charities to provide free contraceptives, sterilization, & abortion-causing drugs to our employees, even though it is against our beliefs as a church. We need to be clear about this: the issue isn’t contraception. It’s that our religious freedom, guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the Constitution, is being taken away. The federal government wants to force us to take actions that are contrary to our beliefs, contrary to our free exercise of religion. There is more talk theses days about the fact that we have “freedom to worship,” but that only means we’re free to gather in our places of worship for services. Religious freedom is about practicing our faith in the world, living by our beliefs and values, both as individuals and as a church. That’s what the HHS mandate takes away.
Unfortunately, we hear little about this in the media, which is anti-Catholic, anti-religion. But this is a big deal. This is the first time in the history of our federal government that a law takes away religious freedom.
I’m proud of our Catholic bishops. Our Catholic bishops have been fighting this through meetings with & letters to President Obama, the administration & the Congress, & through lawsuits against the mandate that have recently been filed across the country by 43 dioceses & organizations.
Every diocesan Bishop in the country has written a letter to the Catholics of his diocese talking about the situation & encouraging us to pray and to contact our elected officials, asking them to overturn the regulation. Bishop McGrath wrote a powerful letter to us; the letter was in our Sunday bulletin & is available on the diocesan website, dsj.org. His letter begins:
I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which we profess to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population of the United States—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic Church.
… the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution…, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless this rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so), which is also unconscionable.
I encourage each of us to find out more about this situation at the website of the USCCB, usccb.org. There you will find information on the HHS mandate & what our bishops are doing to fight it, including asking us to dedicate the days from June 21 to July 4 to what they call a “Fortnight for Freedom” – fourteen days to focus on the first freedom: freedom of religion.
Our call, as has always been the call of Christians, is to work with God in building the kingdom of God here on earth through what we do & say. First, we do so by leading a good life, setting an example for our children & for those with whom we associate within our extended family, our neighborhood, at work, & with our fellow parishioners. Second we should take action to further good & fight evil, including doing what we can to overturn the HHS mandate. Two good places to start are by praying that the mandate gets overturned, & by educating ourselves, through the usccb.org website & other sources, to understand the situation. Then we should do what we can, like writing our elected officials.
Certainly it’s in God’s hands as our gospel tells us, but our gospel parables also tell us that we are called to cooperate with him, doing whatever we can. We’ve all heard it said that the best way for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. And the HHS mandate is evil.
There is a saying, sometimes attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola & other times to St. Augustine: “Pray as though everything depends on God, work as though everything depends on you.” I encourage each of us to do that relative to the HHS mandate, & to other challenges to our faith.
- How do Christians Respond to Restrictions on Religious Expression? (livingontilt.wordpress.com)
- Congress must protect Americans’ freedom of religion from Obama’s assault (fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com)