Aquila: True freedom is doing good

Samuel Aquila, Catholic archbishop of Denver, spoke so eloquently last week at a Centennial Institute award ceremony that I wanted you to see what he said.  He was being honored for Colorado leadership in fidelity to biblical and constitutional principles -- and it was also a special evening for Donna and me since the award, conferred annually since 2011 in the name of explorer Zebulon Pike, will now bear the name of yours truly.  I acknowledged this very flattering recognition by observing that the Archbishop, like past honorees, exemplifies the “watchman on the wall” whom God commends in Isaiah 62 – a role in which we all ought to see ourselves.  Here is Aquila’s acceptance speech:

TRUE FREEDOM IS DOING GOOD                                                   Remarks of Archbishop Samuel Aquila                                              Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University                         Pike/Andrews Award Dinner 12/14/16

In his recent book If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas explains what can be called the three-fold foundation of our society: faith, freedom and virtue.

These three things are the essential elements, the building blocks of our American way of life and government – without them, the foundation begins to crumble.

 It goes without saying that we live in an uncertain time because the foundation has begun to crack.

The results of the election bear that out: people disagree on the most vital of issues – life, sexuality, family – and they are increasingly distracted from thinking about these things in a meaningful way.

In Colorado, this was made clear by 65% of our fellow citizens voting to legalize assisted suicide.

The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

And the kind of world we leave behind is determined by how well we safeguard and support that foundation of faith, freedom and virtue.

We protect this gift by understanding what we seek to preserve and by living it out. We need to understand and absorb our faith, realize that true freedom consists in doing what is good, and grow in virtue.

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin" (Romans 6:17, CCC 1733).

Without credible, authentic examples, our fellow citizens will continue to dismiss faith, abuse their freedom and embrace vice. This is the most important thing that each of you can do – to be a witness after the example of St. Paul, who sought to be “all things to all men” (I Corinthians 9:22)

Although it seems that our culture is on a downward trajectory, we are a people of hope. And I don’t just mean that in an eternal sense.

We know that Jesus defeated sin and death, and that each of us is saved by his sacrifice and resurrection.

But as we look forward to Christmas, we are reminded that at a specific time in history, God became a human being. He breathed air, viewed sunrises and sunsets, heard the sound of waves, felt the caress of his mother and experienced pain. He became one of us.

As evangelicals and Catholics, we share a common belief in the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, through the Church. Our society is searching and longing for the truths of the faith, but it needs us to see, touch and feel those truths.

Making a difference in the public square requires us to begin with seeking our own ongoing conversion, and then being willing to work together to carry the joy of the Gospel into the world.

We must become recognized for our love and joy, because that is what will ultimately draw our culture to God.

Yes, we must strategize about how to wisely counter the influence of evil in society, but above all we must convey to those around us the transformative power of life in Christ.

 “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses,” observed Pope Paul VI in 1975, and it is even truer today (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41).

Let us be such witnesses.