Our Lady and Sheen

Fulton Sheen on Freedom

Archbishop Sheen’s writings are absolutely amazing.  He wrote 30, 40, 50, 60 and more years ago, and yet his writings echo true today in 2010.  His passion, and compassion, shine through with the most impeccable clarity and charity.  Some say that he was a prophet, which as Christians we are all called to be.   I think of him this way, calling people of his own time and the future back to the Truth, which is the love of Christ.  The article I will be quoting can be found here and is from 1943.

A proof that we are in danger of losing it [freedom], is that everyone is talking about it. If you suddenly came into a country where everyone was talking about the health of the lungs, you would immediately conclude that a disastrous microbe was rampant.

This simple yet profound statement is one that we can relate to today.  Today the rhetoric on the 24 hour news channels, the mainstream media, and even the blogosphere is that we are on the brink of losing our freedom.  In one’s opinion to Obama, in another’s to immigrants, in another’s to right-wing hate mongers, in another’s to aliens from Jupiter.  But constantly the battle cry is over “Freedom.”  Archbishop Sheen puts succinctly that it SHOULD be for freedom, but:

our point is that the gravest threat to freedom comes from within; I do not mean within America alone, I mean within the hearts and souls of men throughout the world.While the world is attempting to preserve freedom in the political order, it is surrendering it in those deeper realms upon which the political reposes.

This is an essay regarding the ease into which humans so easily submit to the rule of tyrannical government when they cease praying and trusting in God.  Archbishop Sheen makes his point by first addressing the temptations of Satan towards our Christ after he has fasted forty days in the desert.  He puts it in terms of offering Jesus the affections of the people by bread, power, or submission:

Our Lord refused to surrender freedom. If souls would not love Him without the bribery of bread, without the exhibitionism of Power, and without selling himself to Caesar, He would still not force them. Freedom would endure through an eternal heaven and an eternal hell.

Standing in juxtaposition to this strength of Christ is man’s groveling at the feet of the government:

Satan is now back again in the world, and oh, how he is succeeding in destroying freedom. Souls are today selling themselves out for that bread which today they call security; for that power which is now called Science and Progress, while others, in over a fifth of the world’s surface, have bartered their freedom for dictators and tyrants.

The writings from sixty years ago is as clear as it is today.  He blames the loss of freedom on the loss of the belief in Hell, which at that time he quoted that 73% of ministers did not believe in Hell, then he clears up why this is the detriment to freedom:

If there is no hell, why should there be a heaven? If there is no wrong, and hence no sin for which men ought to be punished, why should there be a heaven where they should be rewarded for their virtues? If there are statues erected to our patriots, why should there not be prisons for our traitors? Whom do they think God is— a kind of grandmother who laughs off the wrong-doing of His children, as if there were no scales of Justice, and He were not the God of Righteousness?

He then goes on to describe why the Christ did not come down from that most Holy Cross, even after people shouting out that they would believe.  In the perfect nature of God, he knew that:

They had freedom so long as He left their faith in their own hands and not in His. His refusal to come down was the guarantee of freedom. The nails which pierced Him were the stars of the flag of freedom; the bruises of His body battered by free men, were the stripes of that flag. His blood was its red; His flesh its blue and its white.

So long as Our Lord hangs on His Cross, man is free! The moment He comes down in Power, man is His slave, and He is man’s dictator. But come down He will not! Freedom will never be destroyed— not even in hell, for even there He leaves man the eternal choice of his rebellious will.

So He did not come down! If He came down He would have made Nazism, Fascism, and Communism before their time. The coming down is the death of love. If He came down, He never would have saved us! It is human to come down. It is divine to hang there!

This realization that the worldly power of removing himself from the Cross would secure without faith the following of many.  However, the once and eternal sacrifice at Golgotha, which we celebrate in every Eucharist, which is celebrated constantly in Heaven, Christ – the Lamb slain yet standing, is the CROSS.  In that Cross hangs He who died for love me, and although he rose on Easter Sunday, the sacrifice of Good Friday is once and eternal.  Eternal in that it stretches from the beginning of existence to the end, and beyond.

It is this love that we must focus on.  This love that allows us the freedom TO love Someone instead of the freedom FROM rules.  For the freedom from law is a hollow and counterfeit freedom that leads only to our own destruction.

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July 7, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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