Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday word, 04 Jul 2008

Mass for Justice and Peace (04Jul2008) Is 32. 15-18; Ps 85; Jms 3. 13-18; Mk 12. 28-34
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.
“Follow Up Our Faith”

Last night two of us watched the movie, “Amazing Grace,” whose author, John Newton and his personal conversion from slaver to champion of freedom moved William Wilberforce to serve God by whom he felt called through his political career. Wilberforce sought the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, and after 18 years Parliament suspended slavery and the Crown assented to its bill.

While at first blush the historical particulars may not suggest independence, Mr. Wilberforce sought independence from forces which prevented him from entrusting himself to God and allowing God to work through him. A contemporary commentator has noted that at that time in England, religious zeal was considered out of place in polite society and people with religious inclinations received little respect./1/ Nineteenth Century England sounds a lot like 21st Century United States.

Wilberforce also sought independence of a sort at once personal and social: to free humans from capture; trafficking, which either led to death or ownership by another human, and the degradations that entailed.

Our public holiday celebrates our national independence from a monarchy which oppressed the first colonists, beginning in Europe--the reason why they left it. Britain even reached across the Atlantic with domineering laws and influence.

Perhaps it is amazing that we inherited independence at all. Surely it is more amazing that we continue to seek independence from more real enslavement to forces which prevent us from entrusting ourselves to Jesus and allowing Jesus to work through us. That we choose to cooperate with Jesus and to spread his good news are first of all his empowering gift. Jesus’ manifold grace empowers each of us according to each one’s need for ongoing conversion and to each one’s abilities to call for the liberty of humans, to promote human dignity and to foster peace and progress among peoples everywhere.

Those are concrete examples of, in words of Pope St. Gregory the Great, “follow[ing] up our faith with good works. ...true believer[s] practice[] what [they] believe[].”/2/ In our day the church expressed that conviction with focus on human behavior: “Personal behaviour is fully human when it is born of love, manifests love and is ordered to love. This truth also applies in the social sphere; Christians must be deeply convinced witnesses of [Jesus’ freeing love], and they are to show by their lives how love is the only force...that can lead to personal and social perfection, allowing society to make progress towards the good.”/3/

To witness to Jesus’ freeing love is to embrace the amazing grace of Jesus and to allow civic independence to participate in the most real independence, the Christian liberty by which we serve one another according to the love/4/ by which Jesus free us to be his and do his work.
/1/ Brown, Christopher Leslie (2006), Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, pp. 380-82.

/2/ Homily 26, Liturgy of the Hours, vol 3, p. 1517.

/3/ Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, © 2004 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 580.

/4/ See Galatians 5.13.
Wiki-image of William Wilberforce is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Stig Nygaard of Independence Arch in Accra, Ghana, is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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