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BEFORE THE CROSS | Exercising our freedom to stand up for the vulnerable

The Gospel calls us to have regard for all lives, and a special regard for those who are most vulnerable

As we prepare to celebrate July 4, many of the readings this week converge on the theme of freedom.

We hear how the people of Sodom and Gomorrah exercised their freedom in opposition to God and suffered the consequences of their sins. We hear how Abraham exercised his freedom in obedience to God and received the reward of his faith.

We hear how St. Thomas the Apostle exercised his freedom not to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then how he exercised his freedom to follow the risen Jesus.

We hear how the righteous scribes exercised their freedom by rejecting Jesus, and how the tax collector Matthew exercised his freedom by following Jesus. We hear how Jacob exercised his freedom by deceiving his father Isaac; and we know that, as a consequence, Jacob would later be deceived by his father-in-law.

What does the question of freedom look like in our lives? A recent set of headlines in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (from June 11) is a good example.

One front-page story told about the tragic drive-by shooting that killed a 3-year old girl. Lamenting this tragedy the headline stated, about the shooter: “He has no regard for life.”

But, in a sad irony, right above that story was another headline. This one was about a judge’s decision allowing Planned Parenthood to continue to perform abortions in the city.

Why is it a tragedy when some innocent children are killed by the choices of adults, but not when other innocent children are killed by the choices of adults? Why do we lament that some people have no regard for life, but give a free pass to others who have no regard for life?

A similar inconsistency is mirrored in national debates. Some people have regard for the vulnerable lives of immigrants and minorities but not the vulnerable lives of the unborn; others reverse the inconsistency, having regard for the vulnerable lives of the unborn, but not the vulnerable lives of immigrants and minorities. Brothers and sisters, the Gospel calls us to have regard for all lives and a special regard for those who are most vulnerable.

This is one of the key questions for freedom in our time and place: Will St. Louis and Missouri and America stand for the protection of the vulnerable or not?

The Bible tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed themselves interiorly through sin; their external destruction simply made that reality concrete and visible for all. As a city, a state and a country, that’s what’s happening to us. We are becoming, externally, what we have chosen to be internally: more and more divided, more and more belligerent, more and more inconsistent. God has given us our freedom. We are suffering the consequences of how we have exercised that freedom.

I call on all of us to show greater consistency. If we’re going to stand for the vulnerable, let’s stand for the vulnerable — all of them. That means minorities; it means immigrants; and, in a special way, it means the unborn. The more vulnerable a group is, the more clearly we need to stand for them and say: “This life is precious in God’s eyes. We will work to protect it, by law, by policy, and by program.”

God has given us our freedom. How we use it, and what we become, is up to us.

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