Last Wednesday, we, especially the Church in the United States of America, honored the life of St. Katharine Drexel, who gave up her wealth to establish a religious order that cares for the Native and African Americans who were discriminated, ignored, forgotten, and abandoned by the contemporaneous mainstream culture. Even though she was born to a rich banking family, she gave up the worldly possession and entitlement of her family’s wealth to serve and found a religious order to do mission and charitable works with the poor.
When the law did not permit her sisters to care for those who were living on the peripheries, Mother Drexel challenged the system that discriminated and won. When the KKK threatened them, she and her sisters prayed fervently for divine protection and justice, and a tornado took out these hate mongers’ local office a few days later. In all her trials, obstacles, hardships, and challenges, she stood firm to her God-given mission and Christian values beyond the legalistic and mainstream threats and limitations. She took to heart her personal and moral responsibilities! She spent her entire life and fortune on this mission and work. She opened many schools, founded a university, and funded many chapels, chapels, convents, and monasteries, especially in underserving, poor, and forgotten areas.
In recent days, we have seen many reactions as some lawmakers decided to loosen or tighten emergency and safety practices, protocols, and mandates. I find it ironic that those who tend to push for more freedom are resisting the loosening of emergency orders, citing scientific and other quantifiable measures. Yet, in other areas, they ignore or deny reality and objective truths to pontificate their particular and subjective ideologies, theories, and identities. Furthermore, those who tend to want to change the law to protect the sanctity of life, citing that current laws or lack of clear laws are too loose to ensure the dignity of all lives, tend to want to resist the “dictatorship of government” imposed upon citizens and their freedom. They want to be free to do whatever they want according to the constitution!
Unfortunately, what we have seen in recent days are failures of personal and moral responsibilities. We can be overly restrictive in some areas while demanding total freedom on others. We think that legalistic letters of the law define us, and we can do whatever we want according to what the law states. Too many of us get fallen back to our very own ego and its desires for false freedom, thinking that we somehow “miss out” if we are not truly free to do whatever our feeble minds want. Nevertheless, we have all forgotten our personal and moral responsibilities for the common welfare and greater good of all. We need to remember who we are as children of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Christ, and instruments of the Holy Spirit as to use our freedom, not only for our own egocentric goods and desires, but to glorify, serve, and love Him in how we care for one another.
Too oftentimes, we tend to argue, resent, or be vocal about the law and how it is not serving our needs or do not allow us to do whatever we want. Nevertheless, there are too few who recognize their deeper sense of responsibility and calling to go beyond what is or is not, permissible or restricted, given or imposed by the letters of the law to truly take a moral stand and make a personal choice on how to truly live out what we are called to do as disciples of Christ Jesus. It is too easy to use science or legalism to impose or demand certain things but dismiss our very own duty and responsibility to do the right thing at all costs, even if we have all the freedom or restricted by the government in certain ways. We can easily forget that we ALWAYS have a choice to do what is right and just, not just for our particular goods, likings, or needs but for the common welfare and greater good of all. No one can force us to do anything that is against the truth or our conscience that is formed and grounded in God and His commandments, and we always have the freedom to be courageous, persevere, will, and choose the right thing no matter what!
St. Paul described our struggle to die to ourselves and choose what is good in his Letter to the Romans. (cf. 7:13-20) When we take the time to reflect, meditate, and pray, we can see, understand, or comprehend what is good; however, concupiscence and our very own struggle with a weakened will, numerous desires, and countless temptations from the Devil, the world, or our very own ego oftentimes deter us from truly being focused, dedicated, and selfless in loving God and following His will. We really do not know what we want, and that is why it is so easy to be pulled everywhere to do what our flesh, ego, or its worldly desires. As the Apostle said, we do have the desire to do what is right, but we lack the ability to carry it out for we do not know the real good that we really want or need in life, but are so easily attracted to the false, vain, and shallow evils that lie to us. Furthermore, we sometimes end up doing the very things we hate because we are weak and, at times, do not understand our very own actions and their consequences in light of divine and true justice that comes from God.
Hence, the great saint and apostle tell us that we have to be grounded in the law of God and to delight in doing what is right! Evil and its false, vain, and shallow temptations and deceptions are close at hand when we want to choose and desire to do what is right. We are weak and we cannot depend on our very own selves and abilities… all we can do is to be humble, trust, believe, and persevere in the truth, mission, and identity that have been given to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord. No matter how tempting or real the lesser things of this world might be, we have to abide, stand firm, and be grounded in the law of God in mind, not simply what is appealing and good for us at the moment. (cf. 7:21-25)
St. Katharine Drexel did not let social law define her mission or human threats deter her! She went above the letters of the law to care and love those who are forgotten, ignored, abandoned, and discriminated by society. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, so that their mission, purpose, existence, and works are to be defined and motivated by the love of the Eucharist. Mother Drexel taught us, too, that our dedication, service, and defense of the poor are to spring forth from our very own love for the Eucharistic Lord who first loved us. If we truly understand how much He has loved us, and what immense gift of selfless love we receive at communion, we would, in turn, make our very own lives Eucharistic in thanksgiving for the gifts we have received from the Lord.
This is who we are as Catholics! Our saint taught us that nothing is more important than the Lord, and if we know how much He loves us, we would give up everything to serve Him in our very own brothers and sisters. What we have received should move us toward selfless gratitude and service of Him, for true love responses to love from the heart. St. Katharine Drexel loved and protected those who were looked down on and hated by some, treated as lower beings or like animals by others, because she loved the Lord. I pray that we, too, may have her courage to do what is right, use our freedom for the greater good, defend and care for the most vulnerable. We are told that everyone who is in God will overcome the lies, manipulations, and deceptions of this world. Our victory is found in our very own faith in Him who is the truth and our faithfulness to His teachings. May the mission of Christ be our own as we live it with our personal and vocational Christian values, purposes, and identities as His very own disciples.
Prayers and blessings.