As many of you know, recently the Obama Administration rolled out a new mandate that forces Catholic institutions to pay for free contraceptive coverage for all their employees, in violation of the teachings of the Church. While the pontificates of Blessed John Paul the Great and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, have ushered in a new flowering of the Catholic faith in our beloved United States, American culture seems to be moving farther and farther away from what we as Catholics know to be good and true, and now our government is demanding the Church follow suit, using coercive government power to accomplish this. Sound familiar? It should. This is precisely the situation faced by the Maccabees and by the martyrs of the early Church.
In the case of the Maccabees, a new ruler of the Kingdom of Israel had demanded that the Jews abandon the Jewish faith and adopt the religion and customs of the pagan Greeks, on penalty of death.
Some Jews complied, some Jews resisted and were martyred, and some fled to the mountains where they hid in order to live their lives in accordance with God’s commands.
Even though they fled, however, the group of Jews who fled to the mountains, under the leadership of the Maccabee family, worked together to plan and successfully executed a rebellion against the ruler of Israel, and replaced it with a new ruler loyal to God’s laws.
The early Church faced a situation similar to that of the Maccabees, in that it was illegal, under penalty of death, to practice Catholicism. Like the Maccabees, the Catholic Church in those days was in hiding, and, they fought back against the Roman Empire, but in a different way: through their love, and through their faithfulness to Christ and willingness to give their lives for Him. This witness drew people to the Church, and, eventually, the Roman Empire was converted under the reign of Constantine.
Although this new persecution of the Church in America does not yet carry the penalty of death, it is just as reprehensible and just as much an attempt to silence and destroy the Church as was the persecutions the Maccabees and the early Church faced, and we should follow the example of both.
Like the Maccabees, we must fight: not with swords and rebellion, but with whatever legal and political remedies we have, as well as our words. We must make clear that attacks on the Church and her freedom are unacceptable, and seek to repeal unjust laws like the HHS mandate and redefinition of marriage.
At the same time, we must also be willing to disobey orders and unjust laws that force us to betray Christ and His Church, and suffer the consequences. This is what the early martyrs, like all martyrs, did, and what we must be willing to do if we truly wish to follow Christ.
One day these persecutions the Church is experiencing in our country will end, but in the meantime we must remain hopeful, fight for the Truth, and stay faithful to Christ and His Church no matter what the cost. Doing these things will be difficult and costly, but if we truly love Christ and wish to follow Him, we must settle for nothing less. Onward!