Sunday, October 01, 2006

First Sunday

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington stepped further into the limelight of his new post this morning as he celebrated the capital's 53rd annual Red Mass in St Matthew's Cathedral.

Wuerl's shown here greeting Chief Justice John Roberts; behind them, holding the hand of the CJ's wife, Jane (face obscured by mitre) is Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio.

Gratefully, the much-anticipated homily has already been posted. Here's a snip:
At times our society, like many contemporary cultures heavily nurtured in a secular vision that draws its inspiration elsewhere, can be tempted to think that we are sufficient unto ourselves in grappling with and answering the great human questions of every generation in every age: how shall I live; what is the meaning and, therefore, the value of life; how should we relate to each other; what are our obligations to one another?

The assertion by some that the secular voice alone should speak to the ordering of society and its public policy, that it alone can speak to the needs of the human condition, is being increasingly challenged. Looking around, I see many young men and women who, in such increasing numbers, are looking for spiritual values, a sense of rootedness and hope for the future. In spite of all the options and challenges from the secular world competing for the allegiance of human hearts, the quiet, soft and gentle voice of the Spirit has not been stilled.

Just as we are told in the first reading today that the Spirit of God was shared with some of the elders so, too, today we have a sense that that Spirit continues to be shared. The resurgence of spiritual renewal in its many forms bears testimony to the atavistic need to be connected to the vine and rooted in the soil of our faith experience.

As Jesus assures us in today’s Gospel: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” The revelation of the mystery of God-with-us is not incidental to that human experience. It gives light and direction to the struggle we call the human condition. Religious faith and faith-based values are not peripheral to the human enterprise. Our history, the history of mankind, is told in part in terms of our search for and response to the wisdom of God....

Religious faith has long been a cornerstone of the American experience. From the Mayflower Compact, which begins “In the name of God, Amen,” to our Declaration of Independence, we hear loud echoes of our faith in God. It finds expression in our deep-seated conviction that we have unalienable rights from “Nature and Nature’s God.”

Thomas Jefferson stated that the ideals and ideas that he set forth in the Declaration of Independence were not original with him, but were the common opinion of his day. In a letter dated May 8, 1825, to Henry Lee, former governor of Virginia, Jefferson writes that the Declaration of Independence is “intended to be an expression of the American mind and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit.”

George Washington, after whom this city is named, was not the first, but perhaps was the most prominent, American political figure to highlight the vital part religion must play in the well-being of the nation. His often-quoted Farewell Address reminds us that we cannot expect national prosperity without morality, and morality cannot be sustained without religious principles.

Morality and ethical considerations cannot be divorced from their religious antecedents. What we do and how we act, our morals and ethics, follow on what we believe. The religious convictions of a people sustain their moral decisions.

What is religion’s place in public life? As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, tells us in his first encyclical letter, “Deus Caritas Est” (God Is Love): “[f]or her part, the Church, as the social expression of Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize. The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated” (DCE 28). Politics and faith are mingled because believers are also citizens. Both Church and state are home for the same people.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole shebang.

Reuters/Joshua Roberts
PHOTO 2: AP/Gerald Herbert