"The Word was made flesh," St. John writes in the Gospels. That idea been used and misused, as religion can be. Rather than an occasion to justify our decisions or hardened opinions, Christ should be a constant challenge to be honest about just what it is that we believe and know we ought to do.
And that requires us to exercise conscience -- and that, in turn, requires the freedom to do so.
In his 2009 visit to Israel, Pope Benedict XVI said: "When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalized, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy."
The Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the life, death and resurrection of Christ bring with them messages of freedom and grace, of liberation from what burdens our hearts. Rather than be something restricted for Sundays, religion should be celebrated and embraced at the core of daily life. When our founders established our nation, they understood that religious faith was good. Now imagine if we truly lived that idea.
This Lent, you don't have to be Christian to figure out what is it that's motivating you when you get up in the morning. What is the work for? What is your life for? What are you for?
That this land that tells the story of the greatest peace would have precious little of it -- as you're reminded when you wait on line at the security checkpoints, the wall dividing Israel and the West Bank, which includes Bethlehem, or the Palestinian policy office in the Church of the Nativity -- couldn't more vividly remind us of life's challenges. The key is to live in the world and its daily requirements but also to rise above them. To "hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends, and those who turn to him in their hearts" (Psalms 85:8). How might that be, for a change?