"Let us indeed 'read the signs of the times' as we witness what Pope Francis calls a 'polite persecution' going on all around us," the archbishop added.
He acknowledged that these threats "pale in comparison to those faced by our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world," but then asked "who is served" by disregarding these threats. "Surely not those who remain strong in their witness in the face of violence and death!"
Christians in the U.S. might not be martyrs, but will have to uphold Church teaching in the face of an increasingly hostile secularism, he warned.
"We may not be called upon to shed our blood but we are called upon to defend our freedoms not merely in the abstract but as embedded in matters such as immigration, marriage, and the Church's teaching on sexuality."
When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, he was not a "rabble-rouser seeking confrontation with the state," the archbishop said. Rather, Jesus was "the very personification of the Beatitudes he once proclaimed on the mountainside."
He was "in the sovereign freedom of the Father's love: poor in spirit with few possessions and no visible means of defense; full of sorrow and anguish for our sins; meek and mild, the Lamb of God, seeking only the Father's will; a man of singlehearted love who came to bring us the peace of God's kingdom, and who was now being persecuted for the sake of righteousness."
"No decision Pilate could render would deter Him from his mission. Caesar could not touch the things of God," he said. Christians must live this same freedom of spirit, he insisted, if we wish to be catalysts of peace and justice in our land."
Christians must be witnesses to the freedom of Christ and the martyrs, "by loving and praying for those who engage in violent persecution, as well as those who seek to limit our ministries and curtail our freedoms at home."
"We know not what the future holds, but let us approach it as Jesus would, with 'heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience'," he concluded. "If we do so, then, no matter happens, we shall truly be free!"
Photo credit: PKpix via www.shutterstock.com.
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.