For the second year in a row, the Diocese of Cheyenne invited legislators and other government officials to gather at the Cathedral of St. Mary with faith community leaders for an interfaith prayer service. Our crowd grew from last year to this year, and once again a tremendous amount of gratitude was expressed for the opportunity to bring the community together as an expression of unity and faith.
Rabbi Larry Moldo from Mt. Sinai Congregation in Cheyenne represented the Jewish community, Dr. Mohamed Salih from the Southeast Wyoming Islamic Center in Cheyenne represented our Islamic brothers and sisters, and there were many other representatives from the various Christian communities of Wyoming.
Rabbi Moldo, Dr. Salih and myself each offered a reading from the sacred texts along with a brief commentary. Other ministers were invited to offer prayers on behalf of our legislators, respect for human dignity, remembrance of all the poor and less fortunate and freedom to exercise our religious freedom. The was a well-attended reception following the prayer service for participants to enjoy some time socializing before everyone had to get on with the business of the day.
Below are my welcoming comments and reflection. Thanks once again to Matt Potter for providing photos from this morning’s prayer service. You can view all of the photos from this morning here.
Opening & Welcome:
Good morning! I wish to welcome all of you; my brothers and sisters who are ministers of the various faith communities throughout the State of Wyoming, all of our legislators and justices, all those who serve in any public office, and all who come as people of faith to join us in prayer.
This interfaith prayer service today is an expression that all revealed religions flow from a belief in One God. The Revealed Religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, share a common root in the tree of God’s Family, our Father Abraham. The One God, Creator of all things, calls every human person into life. The dignity of every human person is rooted in their being created in God’s image and likeness. Thus, the basic freedom of every human person is to worship God according to their own conscience. Our prayer this morning exercises our belief that every human person has the right to religious freedom. May our prayer this morning be an expression of the unity we share as brothers and sisters in the One Family of God.
READING: 1 John 4:11-21
People of Wyoming have known for generations the truth of the statement that God’s first book is creation. The beauty and grandeur of creation naturally leads the human person to discover the Creator himself. The harmony and laws of nature instill within us a search for truth and goodness. “Every human person is bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God … and to embrace it and hold onto it as they come to know it.” (Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae #1)
The laws that govern nature flow from the wisdom and love of God. This divine law is the highest form of human life, thus a well-ordered life recognizes God and the laws of divine wisdom and love. As God’s love gives order to all creation and each individual life, it is only reasonable to believe that God’s wisdom and love are necessary for a well-ordered society.
St. Pope John XXIII recognized this correlation when he taught in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963): “Peace on earth — which man throughout the ages has longed for and sought after — can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” (Pacem in Terris #1)
God is eternal, and so too his ways, his wisdom and his love are eternal. God calls out in love to every person. Indeed, it is in love that we hear most clearly the voice of God, who is always teaching us to live according to his way, the ways of peace and justice. The scripture we just heard reminds us: “If we love one another, God remains in us.” The same reading also reminds us that “We love because he first loved us.” Our love for one another is the path to remaining in God’s love, and thus the path to true justice and peace in our world today.
The Church through the years has expounded greatly upon the revealed Word of God in applying God’s wisdom to the lived circumstances of each generation. In the Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church #4, there is a concise and pertinent statement fitting to our prayer today:
Knowing that they are created and loved by God, people come to understand their own transcendent dignity; they learn not to be satisfied with only themselves, but to encounter their neighbor in a network of relationships that are ever authentically human. … They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where the exploitation of man by man prevails. Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves.
It is God’s presence and action, the divine plan and providence that are at the heart of human dignity and true freedom. It is our free cooperation with God’s love that advances the common good and the well-being of every society.
Religion has a viable and vital role in building a just society. Human dignity and human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are inherent to every person by right of being a child of God. Thus the fundamental freedom of every person is the right to worship God and to live one’s faith free from any and all coercion. “Consequently to deny man the free exercise of religion in society, … is to do an injustice to the human person and to the very order established by God for men.” (Dignitatis Humanae #3)
St. John reminds us today that ‘perfect love drives out all fear.’ As a new legislative session begins today, may we cast out all fear, so as to live freely and fully in God’s love. May we cast out all fear as we seek together to build a society that recognizes and protects the dignity of every human person; a society where all are called and equipped to live fully the freedom that is ours as the one family of God.