From the Deacon’s Desk
Last Sunday, July 5th, marked the end of this year’s “Fortnight for Freedom”, the two week period that begins with the memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More. Both were beheaded by order of King Henry VIII when they resisted the king in the matter of his divorce and refused to recognize him as head of the Church in England. Each year, our Bishops ask us to remember these two martyrs and to reflect on the importance of religious freedom to us and to future generations.
The struggle between Church and state is as old as the Faith itself. Jesus was a threat to the Jewish leaders, the Sanhedrin and the Roman officials, and Pontius Pilate. Whenever the state perceives a threat to it’s existence, it has the tendency to try to abolish that threat, by whatever means it deems necessary. Pilate and the Sanhedrin chose crucifixion, Henry the VIII chose beheading, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain chose the Inquisition, while the French Enlightenment chose the guillotine. While today’s secular leaders are less violent and more subtle, they are, none-the-less, just as great a threat to religious freedom and the separation of Church and state.
Since it’s inception nearly two thousand years ago, the Church has always sought peaceful means to spread the “Good News” of the Gospel, while the secular world has sought, mainly by violence, to prevent it. In today’s world, we still seek to peacefully proclaim the Gospel, while others seek to prevent us, by using against us those powers available to the secular world; the law, the press, etc.
Most people believe that the secular world invented religious freedom, but in reality, it began with the early Church. Conversion to Christianity had to be done freely as an act of the will and could not be forced on anyone. The secular world demanded conformity with the state sponsored religion, and it still does!
Just as in the days of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, we need to resist the temptation to take the easy path of giving in to the demands of society. We must insist on our right to proclaim the truth, THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!!!