Diocese vows to continue moving forward to ‘Let Religious Freedom Ring’
By TARA CONNOLLY
The Diocese of Allentown closed out the national effort “Fortnight for Freedom” July 4 vowing to move forward with courage and humility in working to preserve the nation’s most cherished freedom – religious liberty.
The signature closing event also featured the electronic chiming of the church bell as part of “Ringing of Bells,” a unified action of joyful noise executed by faithful, institutions, churches in the five-county diocese at noon in support of religious freedom.
“Our founding fathers knew that KingGeorge III did not make them a free people. They knew that they were free even before they broke their allegiance to the king,” said Msgr. Andrew Baker to an estimated 400 faithful at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown.
“Their declaration, signed 236 years ago today, is based on an obvious fact – we are free because God is free. As creatures made in God’s image and likeness he has given us a share in his freedom.”
Msgr. Baker, pastor, delivered the homily during the Mass signifying the conclusion of “Let Religious Freedom Ring,” the 14-day period of prayer and education, but not the end of the faithful’s determination to uphold liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“As Americans and as Catholics we are proud to be a ‘free people.’ Our freedom is precious. Our freedom has come with a price. Our freedom, above all, corresponds to who we are as sons and daughters of God our Father,” said Msgr. Baker.
Drawing similarities between the day’s Gospel reading where Jesus meets two men enslaved by demons who want nothing to do with him because he is intent on freeing them, Msgr. Baker said freedom is “for” something.
“Freedom does not reach its fulfillment by remaining in the state of non-coercion or by simply being the ability to make choices. No, freedom is for something. It finds its ultimate purpose and fulfillment in choosing something, or, better yet, someone.
Freedom is given to us by God so that we can choose the good – the greatest good being God himself. In a very real sense, God gave us freedom so that we could choose him,” he said.
“Jesus performed the exorcism so that these possessed men would be able to choose to follow him. He wants them free from the devil so that they can cleave to him,” said Msgr. Baker.
In addition, he called on the faithful to reflect on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) statement that religious freedom “is among the proudest boasts of the church on these shores” and to contemplate the vision of the nation’s founders.