Summary: Especially in difficult times, God raises up leaders to keep us on track.
Thursday of 25th Week in Course 2017
Reformation and Revolution
St. Luke’s Gospel relies on information that we have from nobody else. For instance, it is fairly certain that he had a “mole” in the palace of the Herods, because we have in the Gospel and Acts stories that could only come from an insider. Herod the tetrarch, who was the one connected with the famous dance, was totally corrupt, but the Romans put up with him because he paid them and kept his territory quiet. Here we see that he was curious about this Jeshua of Nazareth, one of his subjects, and wanted to see Him. He didn’t want to listen to Him condemn the hedonistic lifestyle, but rather see a trick. He rather thought Our Lord was a kind of magician. Both the religious and political rulers of the first century totally misread Jesus. His intention was not to change external conditions. His intention was to build a Church with living stones of repentant hearts, people who practiced daily acts of faith, hope and charity.
Politics, too, had been operating when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity. The rulers seem to have had the idea that their first job was to rebuild the Judean economy. The prophet Haggai was having none of it. Temple worship was for him the primary reason they had been restored to their land, and he and other prophets fussed at the people until the second Temple was built and dedicated. Religion and politics have had strained relationships throughout human history. This is particularly true when we consider the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe, and the revolution and reform that still have an impact on us.
Remember that the papacy in the 1400s was just recovering from the disrepute that fell on it, both religiously and politically, during the Avignon exile and the period of the antipopes. But the main threat to Christianity was south and east. Constantinople, the gemstone of Eastern Orthodoxy, fell to the Ottoman Turks in May, 1453. That was just the appetizer. Throughout the 1400s and 1500s, Islam was on the offensive, was taking territory and millions more Christians were offered the choice to convert or die. Popes kept preaching crusades, but European politics kept getting in the way. Italy was fractured into multiple political jurisdictions, few of which were willing to vest any power in Rome. France and the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy nor Roman, were in constant conflict, with Burgundy right in the middle. It seems that the only important thing to political leaders back then was retaining their power, staying in charge, not defending the Faith. Sound familiar?
The aptly named Pius II never gave up, and eventually proclaimed that he would lead a crusade himself. But he was dying, and the few who joined his effort scattered before it sailed. In August 1464, he died at the Feast of the Assumption. His last words are like a sermon to all leaders:
“My hour is drawing near. God calls me. I die in the Catholic Faith in which I have lived. Up to this day I have taken care of the sheep committed to me, and have shrunk from no danger or toil. You must now complete what I have begun but am not able to finish. Labor therefore in God’s work, and do not cease to care for the cause of the Christian Faith, for this is your vocation in the Church. Be mindful of your duty, be mindful of your Redeemer, who sees all, and rewards every one according to [what he deserves].”