I was honored to offer Mass today at St. Peter’s in Washington, D.C. for the Little Sisters of the Poor, following arguments made on their behalf before the Supreme Court of the United States. May God bless their efforts to defend religious liberty and our collective freedom to serve! Below is my homily from the Mass.
Well, dear sisters and dear friends, it’s been quite the day. If you attended the oral arguments in the chambers of the Supreme Court, you heard high level argumentation and questioning. For those of us who are non-lawyers, it is glimpse at the complexities of the law. I can only imagine the combination of exhilaration and exhaustion our legal team feels having argued before the High Court for such a noble purpose. It has also been a day when many have come to support what we sincerely believe is a very worthy cause as well as a day when we have encountered opposition. You have been praying for weeks on end, fasting and otherwise sacrificing, and it’s fair to say that this momentous religious freedom issue has occupied much of your time and energy. Now the matter is in the hands of the Court and in the hands of God.
So we do well to come away and rest with the Lord, by celebrating the mystery that is “the source and summit” of our lives. Yet, even here rest seems hard to come by for today’s liturgy is filled with the intrigue created by Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, and with a certain foreboding as the hour of Jesus’ Passion and Death approaches.
Where, indeed, will we find solace and rest for our souls?
The answer, of course, is always the same. It is Jesus who gives solace and rest to our souls, even in this hour when we remember how he was betrayed and how, though innocent, he suffered to save the guilty from their sins. In the midst of intrigue and foreboding, we find in Jesus a yoke that is easy and burden that is light.
We find in Jesus a love “stronger than sin and more powerful than death.” Thus do our souls find rest, even as controversy swirls about us.
Jesus understood that his mission would bring him face-to-face with the powers of darkness. He also understood that, through the ages, his followers would do the same. It never has been nor should it ever be easy to follow Jesus. He calls us to salt and light and leaven in the midst of a world that is often unbelieving and indifferent.
We know, of course, how hard it is to remain faithful to that mission. The tragic figure of Judas signals how easy it is for me and even for you to betray the One who loves us with a beautiful and merciful love. It also signals that “Jesus took upon himself the betrayal of all the ages, the pain caused by betrayal in every era…” (Benedict XVI). We came today to hold fast to that love which is capable of transforming us and transforming those we are privileged to serve. We dared to argue this case before the highest court in the land because, despite our unworthiness, we want to bear witness to that love which alone conquers human darkness.
So let us be of good cheer. Let us dare to hope. Let us dare to rejoice. For with the help of many, you can say, dear sisters, “The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue….” and I’ve rejoiced to see the charity and cogency of what you have said and written in defense of religious freedom and in defense of the Church’s mission of service.
Please do not underestimate how encouraging your witness is to so many. Truly you have spoken a word “to the weary, a word that will rouse them.” Many across our country and beyond, including Pope Francis, are truly heartened by your loving and courageous witness to the faith rooted in the Lord’s own love and courage in redeeming us from our sins. May the Lord God be our help and, if it be his holy will, may he vindicate the Church in a case that will have far-reaching consequences, now and for the future.
As we offer again the One Sacrifice of Christ, we beg the grace of the Holy Spirit for the High Court, for our society, for our Church, and for ourselves: that we may preserve and defend the God-given gift of religious freedom now and for generations yet to be born. May God bless us and keep us always in his love.