June 23, 2012

Prayer and Action in the Night of Freedom

The Catholic Bishops have asked us in these days leading up to July 4 to pray for our most cherished freedom - religious freedom.  This is freedom not only to go to Church and pray, but also to provide works of service and love to the vulnerable in society, to tell the truth about human dignity and the sanctity of life to governmental powers and commercial interests who tend to treat persons as merely the means to an end rather than an end in themselves, and to share the Gospel of Christ in the public square.  This great freedom is not free and from childhood we learned songs about fighting through the night for what is most sacred about our way of life.  So this Fortnight of prayer is a kind of battle, an expression of opposition to those who would try to prevent us from rendering unto God what belongs to Him alone.

In this world, the religious liberty that belongs to humanity is always threatened.  Every generation must speak out and struggle for its right to serve God anew - or what is holy in humanity is lost.  While making our political voices heard is essential in this struggle, this sacred civic freedom is only truly protected by learning to pray in true spiritual freedom.  For indeed, our struggle is never really against human foes but spiritual ones against whose tactics and stratagems Christ has promised victory.  In this struggle for freedom, every threat can become by our prayer and love the revelation of the glory of God.

In this Fortnight of Freedom, the Lord invites us into a beautiful night of spiritual freedom, a true interior liberty St. John of the Cross describes as a search for God in a dark night. For those under trial, burdened by extra projects and afflicted with all kinds of discouragement, St. John of the Cross teaches that the Lord is at work in secret, hidden ways accomplishing something that we do not understand.  He describes this unseen work as producing spiritual freedom. True freedom he has in mind is the ability to love when we do not feel loved, the ability to appreciate when we do not feel appreciated, the ability to understand when we do not feel understood.

St. John of the Cross is suggesting that trials become beautiful when we allow the Lord to teach us this kind of freedom.  This kind of freedom of heart is so precious, so sacred because it is precisely with this same divine freedom that God loves us. If this is the case, we can call our struggles and difficulties and hardships a Night of Freedom, and our greatest contribution to America during this Fortnight of Freedom is to keep the light of our faith by prayer and action burning bright.