My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
"No matter what happens in the election on Tuesday, I know I'll wake up happy on Wednesday."
That was the confident assertion of a person with whom I was speaking after our recent Diocesan Adult Enrichment Conference, held in Decatur.
I was intrigued, so I asked, "Why do you say that?"
She answered, "Because no matter what happens in the election, Jesus Christ will still be Lord!"
Obviously she was listening and got the message of our keynote speaker, Father Robert Barron, rector of Mundelein Seminary and author of the Catholicism series, as he expounded on the conference theme, "Living Faith Fully, Sharing Faith Freely."
Many other speakers at the conference provided various helpful insights for consideration during this Year of Faith, which began last month. In announcing this Holy Year, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Year of Faith "is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world."
Next Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, which is a wonderful occasion in the aftermath of our national and local elections to remind ourselves as people of faith that Jesus Christ is the Lord who reigns supreme in our hearts, regardless of who won the elections in this worldly realm. That acknowledgement may not only be a consolation for those whose favored candidate lost, but may even be a more important reminder for those whose preferred candidate won.
Psalm 146 sums it up quite succinctly: "Put no trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation."
While people of faith put their trust in God, we must nevertheless live in a world ruled by men and women, and there is no question that the outcome of the election earlier this month will make life in this world more difficult for people of faith. We would be naïve to think otherwise.
We should be prepared for increasingly aggressive assaults on religious freedom, the right to life and the sanctity of marriage. We should be prepared for ever more emboldened efforts to force people of faith out of the public square, as the State of Illinois pushed Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services last year. We should be prepared for stridently secular and anti-life initiatives to try to coerce Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
Unless our constitutional freedoms are respected and protected, we must be prepared to operate as a persecuted church, as the church was in communist Poland during the life of Karol Wojty?a, Blessed Pope John Paul II.
Unfortunately, many of our challenges often come from within the church from people who claim to be Christian and Catholic. They defend their dissident opinions by citing their conscience.
Yes, there is primacy of conscience, but there is also integrity of conscience. That is, people who make conscientious choices must also as a matter of integrity acknowledge and accept the consequences of those choices.
Conscience is exercised in freedom and faith is embraced in freedom. The doors of the church open both ways. Those who freely embrace the faith are welcome to come in; those who want to leave are free to go. That is not to say that those who fail to live up to the church's teachings must leave the church. For those who embrace the faith but fail to live up to its ideals, the only door shown to them is the door to the confessional. God is rich in mercy and always willing through the sacramental ministry of the church to take back those who are truly repentant.
For those who are not even aware that their willful cooperation with evil is wrong, we can pray as Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
While this message is intended to be realistic, at the same time our faith gives us hope. We must face realities in order to be prepared for them, but we must also find hope in the Good News that Jesus is Lord!
May God give us this grace. Amen.