- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

Excerpts from the Red Mass sermon given yesterday by Bishop Wilton Gregory at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the District.
The Second Vatican Council has reminded us to "read the signs of the times" so that we might seek to carry out God's plan in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
We are all living daily with the memory of 9/11 as well as with the future responses to that attack. Questions are rightly raised about changes in our personal lives and about how to react as a people in a manner that is just and moral. We continue, almost on a daily basis, to read [about] failures of [business] leadership summed up by names like Enron and WorldCom. And I would be injudicious if I did not mention the doubts about leadership that have arisen in our country as a result of the sex-abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church in the United States in recent months, and the terrible personal suffering which it has exposed.
Many of the signs of this time in which we live seem to be those of darkness. But we cannot allow matters to remain that way. It is neither our history as Americans, nor our nature as men and women of faith, to give in to pessimism. We trust that God is not somehow looking away, but even in our difficult moments, He is the reason we look confidently to the future.
George Washington, in his farewell address, described his presidency as a time of "passions, agitated in every direction [and] vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging." Washington observed that in leading the nation through these obstacles, his path had been lighted by the twin torches of religious faith and moral convictions, stating: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. Let it simply be asked, 'Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of justice?'"
We pray for our public officials and administrators of justice. As Isaiah tells us in the reading this morning, this Spirit of the Lord is "a spirit of wisdom and understanding." He therefore assists those who must wrestle with the most complex and conflicting legal arguments and proofs, helping them not to be misled by what is superficial, beguiling or false. We must not forget that the Spirit of the Lord for whose presence we pray this morning, that same Spirit, was given to Christ [and] brings about a special care, attention and love for those who are in need among us [to] "bring glad tidings to the poor proclaim liberty to captives."
Obviously no small agenda, but it is one that we too must embrace as part of the work of our time. And we should not be bashful in proclaiming from the housetops, that in many places, and under many circumstances, it is precisely churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, in short it is religious faith, that has answered the cry of those who are most in need. And as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, while apologizing once more for the cleansing needed within our own house, I would argue most powerfully that those scandals must not silence nor limit the excellent influence that religious voices have in the formation of our governmental and societal policies, whether they be war and peace, the death penalty, stem-cell research or questions of poverty. The truth that underlies faith is not diminished because its messengers are human beings with all their faults and failings. The miracle of faith is that truth is proclaimed in spite of ourselves.
All too often in recent years, it has been a sign of our time that some urge that the role of religion in public life be marginalized and even suppressed. It is a time for us to recover our sense of God, of the sacredness of human life and of doing what is right.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Eldridge Spearman at Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church in Silver Spring



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