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Surveying the political landscape, the question arises: What can the defenders of life, of marriage, and of faith do? The answer is simple: go back to basics. Proclaim the gospel. What this country needs -- what every country needs -- is more converted Christians. If a building is tottering, you don’t check the roof -- even if that is where the problem is most evident -- you check the foundation.
To change the world, we must begin in individual human hearts. There are unfortunately many who check the box “Catholic” but have never really heard, understood, and accepted the gospel message.
We have to proclaim the good news. The good news is not ‘obey the ten commandments’, it is not ‘go to Mass on Sunday’, it is not ‘feed the poor’. These are all good things, things we should do, but this is not the good news.
The good news is that, although we are all sinners and deserve judgment, God sent His only beloved Son to suffer and die to pay the price for our sins. All we have to do is to acknowledge our sins and believe that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross is the full and complete payment. We obey the Ten Commandments because recognizing the price paid for sin, we don’t want to sin again. We go to Mass to give thanks for such a gift and receive his body broken for us. We care for the poor because we see Christ in them. We act like redeemed, adopted children of God because that is who we know we are.
The great heresy of our age is the denial of sin. If people don’t acknowledge how far short they have fallen, they aren’t going to see their need for a savior. If they justify their small sins and rationalize big ones, if they don’t think they need mercy, they aren’t going to rejoice over the gift of unmerited grace. And they aren’t going to see why, having received such a gift, the only proper response is to acknowledge Jesus as their LORD and Savior. They aren’t going to allow their consciences to be formed by the Holy Spirit.
Today, the only scripture many can quote is “Judge not, least ye be judged.” But too often, they miss the point. We are not to judge others -- not because we are all innocent -- but because we are all sinners. We are not the judges, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a judgment. God is the just judge of all the world. When we come before Him, we can ask for mercy or we can try to justify ourselves -- a risky choice. We can make excuses, complain about our childhoods, blame others, but God knows how many times we refused his grace, how many times we have said no to love. God stands with arms open wide, ready to give mercy to anyone who asks, because the price for that mercy has already been paid in blood on the cross.
Empty confessionals aren’t a sign of increasing spiritual perfection, but bondage. Freedom -- real freedom -- comes only when we acknowledge our failures and receive mercy.
The Church is like a great cathedral with soaring towers, radiant stained glass, beautiful chapels, a magnificent organ, saints and angels, prophets and priests. None of us can in one lifetime explore all her treasures, learn all she has to teach. The danger is that in the midst of all this splendor, we neglect to check the foundation. Has every child in our religious education programs heard and understood the good news? Has each been given an opportunity to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Priests need not simply to preach from the gospel, but to make sure each person in the congregation has understood the essential elements of the gospel message.
Of course, true conversion is not something you can organize like a church picnic or CCD class schedule. True conversion is a work of grace, but we can pray for that grace to be poured out on our parishes, on our towns and cities, on our country. We can pray that God will send evangelists. We can pray that our priests will be given the gift to move hearts. We can ask for the grace to able to share the gospel with friends and families.
Once people are converted, then they will become the leaven that can change the world.
Dale O’Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of “The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality.”