“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth).” Matthew 6:24
In Luke’s account (Lk 16:13-15), it goes on to say that the Pharisees were “lovers of money” and upon hearing Jesus’s words, “they ridiculed Him”. The Pharisees were part of God’s chosen people, and yet Jesus had some of his strongest criticisms levelled at them, because they should’ve known better. Although it was the Romans (pagans) that ultimately nailed Jesus to the Cross, it was God’s people that first rejected Him and brought Him to them.
Fast-forward 2000 years, and is it possible we are doing this all over again? Venerable Fulton Sheen in his book “Old Errors and New Labels”, stated that “Western Civilization is like the prodigal son… it shed belief in the Church in 16th century, inspiration of Scripture in 17th century, existence of God in 18th century, and the necessity of religion in 19th century”. The result was the 20th century, which at times, made living with pigs look like paradise. He went on to write this remarkably prophetic observation, “New Paganism may be defined as an outlook on life that holds to the sufficiency of human science without faith, and the sufficiency of human power without grace. In other words, its two tenets are Scientism which is a deitification of the experimental method, and Humanism, which is the glorification of a man who makes God to his own image and likeness.” Sound familiar? Fulton Sheen wrote this in 1931!
History tells us that the two main types of economies under the pagan system were the slave economy and feudalism. Slaves all participated in the equal sharing of miseries. The select feudal lords all enjoyed significantly disproportionate amounts of wealth at the expense of the masses. Today, it may be said that we enjoy life at the expense of the Mass. The names of these systems have changed but we still have predominantly only two: We call them communism and capitalism. The former is founded in Envy, the latter in Greed.
Hilaire Belloc concludes in his book “Servile State”, that “…the community will settle down upon that Servile basis which was its foundation before the advent of the Christian faith…and to which in the decay of that faith it naturally returns.” Jacques Maritain, in his masterpiece “Man and the State”, reminds us that “the state tends to ascribe to itself a peculiar common good – its own self-preservation and growth -“. Without the Cross illuminating our activities, social and economical, our political framework descends to nothing more than constant, antagonistic battles of will. The current political discourse resembles more that of two teenagers arguing about who got the remote control first (can’t wait to see how Alexa plays into this), then a discussion between mature adults.
The Church plays a vital role in enlightening the room, not in the form of a theocracy, but more as a trusted advisor. At its best, the Church helps the political community honour the family and ensure its freedoms, namely: – the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions;
– the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;
– the freedom to profess one’s faith, to hand it on, and raise one’s children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;
– the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;
– in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;
– the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
– the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authorities (CCC 2211)
The Catechism teaches us that “the diversity of political regimes is morally acceptable, provided they serve the legitimate good of the communities that adopt them” (CCC 1901), as communicated on St Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 13:1-2) and St Peter’s first encyclical (1 Pet 2:13-17). Pope Benedict XVI, reaffirmed and reminded us of the Catholic position that “the state is not itself the source of truth and morality”. He added a key warning that seems lost today on both secular governments and the leadership of the Church itself, that “by merging with the State, the Church would destroy both the essence of the state and her own essence.” (Faith and Politics)
With that in mind, our senses should be heightened when we hear a prominent Cardinal make a statement as this: “I see a lot of things happening that would really open many doors because President Xi and his government are concerned about things that Pope Francis is concerned about” (The Global Times Feb 2016). This Cardinal was none other than Theodore McCarrick, the disgraced sexual predator, and president Xi was the leader of communist party of China. Sent by the Pope to conclude an agreement with China, since 2018 the Communist party has been allowed to select bishops in the country. Read Cardinal Zen’s own reaction to understand the ramifications of such a betrayal (Sept 27, 2019 Letter). It’s a reminder of Solzhenitsyn’s warning: “Communist regimes abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations is an illusion.”
In Germany, the German Church receives taxes directly from the government! Its pews could be empty and still collections won’t stop. This love money has now given us the German synodal way, whereby the buildings look Catholic, but the people are pagan, including their “spiritual consultants” (the word priest is too strong a reminder of colonialist past). In Canada, residential schools received funds for each student enrolled (is is any different today?). More recently, churches were closed (this priest’s confession in US was heartbreaking), the Eucharist denied. Later on, we learn some dioceses collected unemployment cheques for its priests. With shepherds like these, who needs wolves? We do not leave Jesus because of Judas, but as G.K. Chesterton said, “We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that moves with the world. We want a Church that moves the world!”. We are the Church.
A Church that moves the world, needs to go into the world. St Francis de Sales said that “to shun society implies indifference and contempt” (Introduction to the Devout Life). Locking (i.e. self-censoring) ourselves at home will not bring any change to the culture around us. Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote that the “Christian Faith is always personal but never private….As a friend once said, it’s like asking a married man to act single in public. He can certainly do that – but he won’t stay married for long.” (Render unto Caesar) The Church is sometimes referred as the Bride of Christ. Are we Christian at home, but pagan in public?
Friends, we started with Venerable Fulton Sheen’s comparison of our society to the prodigal son. We have squandered many of the riches (freedom, peace, material comfort, etc) that we received through the blood of our martyrs, the Blood of our Lord. There is no Resurrection without the Cross. How did the prodigal son improve his situation? He returned to the Father. Let us do the same.
St Joseph – pray for us.
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