America needs our prayers and our sacrifice

The people of Israel faced a terrible drought nearly 3,000 years ago. It began when Ahab, the Israelite king, abandoned the true God, and worshipped an idol; a false god. The prophet Elijah proclaimed a drought, which lasted three years.

Eventually, Elijah proposed a test of the goodness of the true God and the power of the idol Baal. Two altars were built, one for God and one for Baal. Worshippers prayed that each deity might send fire to the altar. The worshippers of Baal prayed all day, and poured their blood on the altar. But Baal did not send fire.

Elijah chose a different tactic. He poured water on God’s altar, making the wood soaking wet. Then he quietly prayed to God, and a fire came down from heaven. The glory of the Lord was revealed.

After God’s glory was revealed, his mercy was revealed.  As Elijah prayed quietly, the heavens opened, and a renewing rain covered the people of Israel.

When we quietly and humbly pray, God’s mercy and glory are revealed. In response to our prayer, his love covers us in abundance.  As the letter of St. James says, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

Today, like the people of Israel in the time of Ahab, our country seems to worship false gods.  We’ve created false gods of “tolerance” and “equality” and “choice.”  Instead of worshipping the Lord, we’ve found ways to worship pleasure and vanity—we’ve found ways to worship ourselves.  And, like the people of Israel did in Elijah’s time, we’re suffering the effects.

Worship of choice leads to abortion and contraception, and the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, which threatens our freedom of religion. Worship of money leads to poverty. Worship of “equality” leads to a fundamental rejection of marriage and family.

We’re worshipping false gods, and we’re in trouble.

But, like Elijah, the Lord calls us to pray.  And to pray in a special way for our country.  In a few weeks, we will begin the “Fortnight for Freedom.”  The Fortnight is an invitation for all American Catholics to pray and work for our nation—to pray for a return to the true principles that make America great, most especially for the protection of religious liberty.

If we give ourselves to quiet, humble prayer, like Elijah, God’s glory and mercy will be revealed.

In particular, I am inviting all Catholics in Denver to join me in fasting for the protection of religious liberty in our country. I will fast on June 21 and 28—the Fridays of the Fortnight for Freedom.  By fasting, we can unite our prayers to Christ’s suffering on the cross.  By fasting, our day can become a prayer—and prayer has real power.

In the time of Elijah, Israel was lost. Today our nation is lost. But Israel became great again—so great that Christ our Lord was born of Israel.  America can be great again too—can be a witness to the power of God to convert a people, and draw them into his love.  But America needs our prayers.  And our sacrifice.

Please join me in prayer and fasting in our nation. Together, we will witness to God’s power and mercy, poured out for us and for our nation.

 

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.