Apr 16, 2015
About ten years ago my wife purchased for me a box set of some of former Beatle George Harrison’s more obscure albums. Having listened to them countless times since, one line from a lesser known song stays in my mind as a good description of the world we live in. The lyric “It’s all up to what you value” often rings in my head, as neighbors, work colleagues, even family members see the world so very different from those who have faith in Christ and his Church. What a devoted Catholic may place infinite value in is seen by others as of minor importance to the extent they are even aware of what the Catholic is talking about. What one values in many ways determines everything else.
Last spring I had the privilege of participating in a debate sponsored by a Democratic Party organization on church/state separation issues and on the role of religious faith in civic life. Speaking from the perspective of a Catholic who believes there is nothing of greater importance that striving to live the will of God in every facet of life, it was striking how those on the other side of the debate, who I honestly believe to be persons of good will, thought it was a minor matter to use the power of government to force people to choose between violating their consciences as informed by their faith or subjecting themselves to severe sanctions from the state. These same people thought it entirely reasonable to marginalize faith to some sort of private spiritual expression that could somehow be separated from actions as a public citizen or a participant in the economy.
How to reconcile that rational people of apparent goodwill would be so willing to demand that persons violate their religiously informed consciences so to comply with some “public good” and would desire that religious faith be confined to private worship. An answer may be the radically different relative value that is placed in religious faith by many moderns. For the devoted Catholic, our faith in Christ and living that faith is the pearl of great price that can never be given up. For many others today their faith, if any, may be far down their personal hierarchy of what’s important, where political affiliations, community acceptance or even devotion to an athletic team may rank higher when the rubber hits the road.
When frustrated or angry at the assaults on faith we increasingly see I try to remind myself that often those doing so have no idea what they are doing. For those with no faith in Christ or some diminished man created version of Christian faith, what they understand faith to be is such a poor imitation they cannot conceive what they are asking others to compromise. If you have never held the pearl of great price it is difficult if not impossible to understand why it is so important to others.
A first step to sharing with others what God has to offer them is to demonstrate what value we place in our faith. Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and other places in the world are paying the highest price for their faith as we speak. While not facing anything like that in the United States, we nevertheless seem to be moving into an era where a higher price for one’s faith may be demanded. While tragic in many ways, it is an opportunity to show that we are prepared to pay whatever price is asked. A harvest of those seeds of sacrifice may be for some of those outside the Church to wonder if what they have thought of great value is a bill of goods compared to the pearl of great price offered by Christ and his Church.