Part 2: A Poet's Expression of His Religion

Richard III

"Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences. 
The supreme question about a work of art
is out of how deep a life does it spring?”

— James Joyce

 

Devils Disguised as Saints

 
Now is our winter of discontent...
— Richard III

English history, with its tales of kings and divine authority and the succession of power, is ripe to be revitalized for symbolic looks at church life and church authority.  The kingdom of Christ is sent to serve and save the world, and there are patterns by which Christians must live out in serving the world and saving souls.  Ultimately, we answer to a higher authority, God himself.

 

Martin Luther

Catholics see Richard III as an allegory of the protestant movement, with Richard a picture of protestant reformers like Martin Luther.  Martin Luther was heroic in the sense that he believed something firmly and was willing to cling to his beliefs despite all opposition.  In doing so, he became the figurehead of a movement that would sweep through most of Europe, and over the next hundred years forever change the world.

But for the Catholic Christian, we see Martin Luther as a stubborn catholic priest who taughtfalsely about the church, and when confronted with his heresies at the Diet of Worms, would not repent of his man-made teachings.  He was so blind about his misunderstanding of scripture, that he was unable to see his own errors, and was unable to come into alignment with the truth.  He diluted divine revelation with his man-made teachings.  Because of a relatively new invention, the printing press, his falsehoods spread like wildfire.  He was skilled in using the latest media technology of the time and was able to spread false teachings about the one, true, holy, Catholic church.  Surely, Protestants might be surprised to hear this Catholic take on their great hero, so let’s take a moment to understand the Catholic point of view on Luther.  If we fail at giving the background on Martin Luther, we will miss the nuances with which Shakespeare speaks in glimpses to Catholics in Richard III, and we will fail to laugh and weep and love heartily as we watch Richard III on stage.

Let us clearly understand, Martin Luther is a person made in the image of our Maker, therefore we are to treat him with dignity, respect, and love that all people deserve for being made in the divine image.  But ideas are not owed any love.  When it comes to ideas, we must be ruthless and cold and discerning.  We have to tear them apart, look at them from various view points, and learn to know the truth.  Truth is everlasting, lies will fade away.  

When the devil came to Jesus, he came to him by speaking ideas.  “Turn stones to bread.  You must be hungry, it’s been forty days since your last bite!  Throw yourself off the temple.  Surely the angels will come to your rescue!  Here take the kingdoms of the world, they are mine.  Just worship me and they are yours”.  The devil was trying to plant ideas in Jesus’s head, he was trying to plant the wrong ideas.

Ideas influence our behaviors.  So if we hold false ideas the effect will be to bring falsehood into the world.  If we hold true ideas, the effect will be to bring truth into the world.  Ideas shape and influence and change the world.  Ideas like “thou shalt not kill” or “love your enemy” or “sola scriptora” affect our behaviors and how we interact with our fellow human beings.  As a church, we are called to be clear about ideas and we are called to love people.  We are not called to love all ideas, only the good ones, but we are called to love all people, especially the sick and hurting ones.  Hence the famous line by Catholics, “hate the sin and love the sinner”.  Sin is any idea wrongly held.  The sinner is simply a person who needs love and guidance into holding ideas in the right way.  The sinner is simply someone who needs guidance into the fullness of truth.  We all need guidance in truth.  This is the struggle of the Catholic church in this world, to aide humanity in purging the bad ideas from our midst.  We do this by preserving divine revelation.  From the beginning, this has been hard.

The first pope, Peter, even had to be rebuked by Jesus.  Immediately following the passage in which Jesus proclaims Peter the rock on which he would build the church, Jesus has to rebuke him for opposing Christ’s teaching about his upcoming journey to the cross and into death.  Speaking to Peter he says “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”.  Jesus calls Peter a devil for thinking as humans do.

For a Catholic, divine revelation is something to be passed in whole.  Heresy is when someone picks and choses what aspects they want to believe about divine revelation.  When we talked earlier of the split in Christendom, the Catholic is uniquely responsible in Christendom for preserving the fullness of truth.  When it comes to divine revelation, the Catholic has resolved to say, “I believe, help my unbelief!”.  Any non-catholic, including a Protestant, is able to pick and chose whatever aspect of truth they want to believe.  Hence, any non-Catholic or ex-Catholic can incorporate man-made doctrines to minimize the mysteries of divine revelation.  They are free to disbelieve the many teachings of the church, like the flesh and blood of our savior, the canon of scripture, the freewill of men, grace in the sacraments — any Catholic teaching.  The possible protestations to truth are plenty.  But for the Catholic, the divine mysteries need to be kept in full because they are the only things that make sense of all the questions and riddles of life.  We have been given the divine mandate to pass along Christ’s teaching in full.  Even if we lack the ability to explain the hows and whys of a mystery, we know the facts of life will never contradict the mysteries of faith.  Catholics harmonize with the psalms and American dollars and say, “in God we trust”.

 

Human and Divine Revolutions

The Catholic church is made up of living stones who are called to respond to help heal the world’s problems, heal where the world went wrong with ideas.  All revolutions start with an idea, and the church is committed to true ideas.  But as heresies of the church show, sometimes God allows weeds to grow with the wheat.  Nevertheless, as Paul tells Timothy, the church is “the pillar and foundation of truth”.  This will never change for God is truth.  Jesus’s words were clear, “I am the way and the truth and the life”.

Richard III is a story of a revolution in England.  Richard, the brother of a king, wants the kingship and will stop at nothing till he is king.  He is consumed and possessed by the idea of being king.  Even if he has to kill and destroy his own family in order to take the kingship and make the kingdom his.  The first time through Richard III, we spoke of divine patterns, how the people of christ are to behave according to a higher law, God’s law.  This applies in how the people of God — his church — conduct rebellions, revolutions, and reformations.  Remember, the ancient kingdom of Israel began because Hebrew slaves rebelled against their Egyptian oppressors and demanded their freedom.  God wants us to right wrongs in this world.  Only, for lasting change, we have to do it the divine way, not the human.  Let’s quickly revisit the exodus story and talk about Moses.  In Moses alone, we have two pictures, one positive and one negative, of how God and men conduct revolutions.

Moses was a Hebrew slave adopted by the family of Pharaoh and raised as a prince.  After Moses had grown up, something stirred inside him, and he began to identify with Hebrew slaves rather than Egyptian princes.  In attempting to rescue two slaves from an Egyptian oppressor, he killed an Egyptian.  The next day, when coming upon two slaves fighting amongst themselves, he asked them why they were fighting.  When they responded, “are you thinking of killing us as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses became afraid and fled from Pharaoh who found out what he had done and wanted to kill him.

See, Moses was using human logic and behaviors to solve a problem he knew in his soul was wrong — slavery.  But the problem was, he was only helping a couple of slaves, and in the wrong way; God wanted him to help all the slaves, and in the right way.

See, in God’s kingdom the ends do not justify the means.  In Moses’s case, he couldn’t help slaves to freedom by killing their oppressors.  Moses escaped from Egypt, fleeing like the criminal he was, because he had to learn the divine way in exile.  He became a humble shepherd and underwent the divine preparation necessary to become a servant of God in the world.  For at the appointed time, God visited Moses in the burning bush, and charged him with freeing the slaves.  The vibrant young man willing to kill to free two slaves had become a humble, meek, wise man willing to face death so that others might live.  The privileged son of the king became a forgotten shepherd and humble servant of the Creator.  There is something to being a shepherd.  Two of the greatest leaders in God’s kingdom, Moses and David, were both shepherds.  Shepherding taught them to love, serve, protect, and give of themselves fully for the sake of their sheep.  The work of shepherding taught them servant leadership.  Jesus, likewise, when he comes to his people he says “I am the good shepherd”.

Let us ask, what was the way God finally freed the slaves?  Was it by raising an army to fight for freedom?  Was it by having slaves beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears?  No.  God sent warnings by an his prophet, request after request for freedom, plagues by command of his word, and finally a passover lamb.  Pharaoh could not ignore any longer the voice of the prophet Moses saying “Let my people go”.

Before — during the human revolution — Moses killed an Egyptian, freed no slaves, and himself fled in exile to be forgotten.  After — during the divine revolution — not one Egyptian died at the hands of any man, all the slaves were freed, and Moses became the father of a nation.  More so, Moses became the forefather of an everlasting kingdom and a prophet in all the Abrahamic religions.  The means matter more than the ends.  The way we do things matter.  By doing things as God divinely intends, we have everlasting goodness.  Though other people wage war, each in the name of their god, we Christians will walk in the pattern of our lord, the eternal God, forever and ever.  The journey matters more than a false promised land.  God will get us home, even if we have to walk in the wilderness all the days of our life.  In God we trust.  His way is the way.

Let me address one aspect of the exodus story, the angel of death.  God who gives us breath can demand it back at any time.  Earthly life is but for a short time.  Before God, we have no right to life — life is a temporary gift which we will return to him at some point, whether we want to or not.  Before other men, we have the right to life — it is a gift from God which can only be rightfully taken by God, not other men.

On that faithful night in Egypt, people were warned.  If you want your firstborn son to survive the night, sacrifice the passover lamb and share the meal as a family.  This was the first plague that placed a requirement on the Israelites.  Egyptian firstborn sons died because they did not see the mighty hand of God protecting his people.  They did not seek to know the God of Israel and therefore they could not obey God.  Simply stated, they were not covered in the blood of the passover lamb.  Men can deny and disobey God, but the angel of death never will.  He passes over those covered in the blood; he carries the others away.

If you think this was cruel, why?  On what basis?  I ask you to remember the Egyptians had been slaughtering Jewish firstborn sons for eighty years.  The manner in which we oppress others, is often the form of punishment we receive.  Punishment for our errors helps us change our ways and develop compassion for others.  We must remember the context of the situation.  Egyptians were given warning after warning to free the slaves.  The angel of death was sent after many warnings.  But because the pharaoh and his people would not listen to the slaves, even after plague after plague, the angel of death was sent.  The Egyptians and Pharaoh were hard of heart and cared not for the suffering slaves.  Warning after warning was given.  Was God to allow Jews to be slaves until the end of time?  Did not the Hebrew slaves have as much right to be free as the Egyptians?  At some point, the warnings end and the divine plan proceeds.  God is merciful and God is just.  His mercy is in sending warnings.  His mercy offers forgiveness for those who chose to accept his forgiveness.  But in the end, those who are stubborn of heart, will receive his justice.  Let us not forsake his perfect mercy, because his perfect justice will be satisfied.  A great love forgives, and he is willing to forgive.  He’s willing for his innocent lamb to pay the price for those who want to change their ways, but for those who refuse to listen, the angel of death comes.  

One day, God holds us to account for the evil done.  “Woe unto the world because of offenses!  Such things must come; but woe to man by whom the offenses come!”  If we shall suppose that Egyptian slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through the divine appointed time, God willed to remove, and in doing so the stubborn Egyptians received the terrible plight of death, while the slaves were freed by the blood of the lamb, do we not sing with the psalmist, “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether”.  His word is true, and will come true.  Not only is his breathe our life, but also his blood.  Dear friend, rest in the blood of the lamb.

Remember, for the Christian, the exodus is an always occurring world revolution.  Daily slaves of the world are being called into freedom under God.  The revolution is here.  It might not be televised but it is evangelized.  God is sending warning after warning.  Famines and droughts and wars and pestilences and plagues and hurricanes and storms and earthquakes, all this will continue until the end.  Yet, in all this, there is a people of God who are constantly being called out of the world.  The divine breathe wants to dwell forever in man, but it will only dwell if invited.  The messengers of God are sent ahead, like Gabriel to the blessed Virgin, and God waits until we repeat her words, “Let it be done unto me according to your word”.  Only then will the Holy Spirit be birthed eternally inside us.  By eating of the passover lamb we pass from the human and into the divine, where the angel of death holds no tyranny over us.  Jesus himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”.  This is through faith in his Word, not some cleverly crafted myth or story, but the testimony of God passed down through the ages by the prophets and apostles.  We’ve been called out of the world.  The remarkable gift for us, which the Egyptians were unaware at the time, we can all become Israelites in faith.  Being the people of God is a brotherhood in faith, not in the flesh.  It is an unbroken bond because of the flesh we dine on, the flesh of the innocent lamb.  We need not remain in Egypt living like slaves.  We who have been born in the world as slaves need not remain slaves to the ways of the world.  We go to the promised land.  We will find the New Eden, even if it’s within us and in our midst.  The offer is only available by faith.  But we must take and eat in faith.  The exodus story has now become our story.  Only now, it is not Egypt and Israel, it is the world and the church.  The church sings with the ancient psalmist, “Near indeed is his salvation for those who fear him; glory will dwell in our land.  Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” on the cross of Christ where the passover lamb shed his blood and gave his life.  Take, eat, this is his body.  Take, drink, we have the new wine of the new testament.

The ancient kingdom of Israel had grumblers from the beginning who complained about their new freedom, and had grumblers until the end who desired the death of the king of Christendom.  Likewise, the new kingdom of Christ has grumblers from its inception, and will have them until the end.  Only, nowadays, the grumblers are called heretics.  The church has dealt with heretics both within and without the body from the beginning, hence the many scriptures which warn about following false teachers and false teachings.  Truth matters.

To be catholic is to believe the divine revelation and commit to learning it and passing it along, in its fullness.  To be catholic is to ransom slaves out of Egypt by what Christ accomplished two thousand years ago.  To be catholic is to believe the mysteries of faith (like the birth of God, the cross of Christ, the Risen One who conquered death) and commit to learning how to share our divine mysteries with the world.  This is why catholics may never pass off man-made teachings as divine revelation.  No one would ever know God allowed himself to be crucified, unless told by a witness.  This idea about God changes lives.  Peter learned when he was rebuked with “Get behind me Satan”, the cross and Christ rising from the dead are mysteries of faith.  In them does the ancient word of God come to fulfillment “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”.  God knew Christ would be the perfect sacrifice.  Our role is to learn mercy, to be merciful, for we have been given infinite mercy.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.

We have mentioned what heresy is, and the danger is to misunderstand it and call things heresy which are not heresy.  Heresy is not having questions — private or public — about Catholic teaching.  Heresy is not the process of searching for truth.  To go through periods of doubt and denial and unbelief is part of the process of maturity.  Even Saint Thomas had to go throw his own journey of despair, and he had very specific questions that needed to be answered that he shared with the apostles.  “Unless I see the scars on his hand and touch where the spear pierced his side, I will not believe he is alive”.  His questions led to an answer which led to his confession, “My lord and my God!”  For Thomas to question whether Jesus rose from the grave is natural, and because of his questions, we today receive a particularly unique double blessing.  Not only do we have a confession of Christ’s divinity, protected and preserved in the church, but we also have a blessing from the lips of our lord, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed”.  We do not see the risen Christ in the way the apostles did, but we have a greater blessing because we see through the eyes of faith.  The apostles learned faith by sight.  We learn to see by faith.  We’ve been given their divine testimony to believe.  The goal is to come into the fullness of faith.  In this, faith and truth converge onto the person of Christ, for he said “I am the truth”.  But when Catholics publicly persist in error and teach falsehoods of the divine faith, minimizing the mysteries of faith, this is heresy.  Let us be like Saint Thomas, let us question and ask, but when the truth is revealed, let us proclaim it for now and for ever.  

Do not think God hates questions.  He loves them.  What good father does not desire to teach and raise his children into maturity?  God loves those who struggle and strive with him.  He named his people “Israel”, which means ‘those who wrestle with God’.  We are to wrestle through the night and throughout our life and yet never let go.  We are to say “How long, O Lord”; we are to cling to him and say “I will not let you go until you bless me”.  These are the people loved by God.  These are the people of God.  This is the faith which renews the world.  This is the faith which is willing to enter the world to free slaves and come back with the ransomed children of God singing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of goodwill”.

Catholics are to struggle and strive with divine truth, yet reconcile our understanding in obedience to our savior.  Only through obedience we are perfected, not through knowledge.  What did the ancient hebrew writer say of our lord?  “In the days when Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek”.  Jesus was perfected through obedience.  He was perfect not because he could sit in a temple and listen and ask questions and know answers.  He was perfect because he was perfectly obedient, even to the point where he embraced death across a tree.  His arms wide open to all of humanity.  This was God’s will.

In the West, we are so culturally used to the ideas from Jesus — ideas like “love one another”, ideas like “do unto others as you’d have done to you”, ideas like “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” — we forget that throughout the history of the world, before Christ mankind believed “Kill your enemy” — this is logical.  “Eye for eye” — this is human.  “Hate for hate, love for love” — this is the human way.  “Good in return for evil” — that is divine.  Love for your enemy is revolutionary.  It is the divine revolution and the true way.  It is the idea that saves the world.  This was God’s plan to fully restore the world so he could say again “it is very good”.

 

Ideas and Heresy

In Richard III, Richard, unbeknownst to his brothers and many others, was living by ideas about power that essentially amounted to “survival of the fittest”.  But what are the effects of this kind of idea?  This kind of behavior?  For if one person can take what they want, why not others?  England was suffering war after war as people sought power, leading English subjects and citizens to the slaughter.  If Richard rose to the top of the kingdom by killing, surely he’d have to stay on top by killing.  For what right does he have to deny others the same behaviors he lives by?  On the other hand, Christ is truly revolutionary.  Christ is given the kingship through service, suffering, and death — it instills a new world order.  The old ways of power are not going to stay.  An everlasting kingdom has come into the world, and humble suffering is the divine way.  But Richard chose to live by the sword and ultimately he dies by the sword.  The behaviors he used to get in power would be the only way he knows how to stay in power.  This is why tyranny comes on the heals of devilish revolutions while liberty comes with the divine revolutions.

Ideas matter.  They strongly influence our behaviors.  It is helpful to study one heresy in particular in order to better understand the Catholic point of view regarding Luther’s heresy.  We are still living in Luther’s heresy, so it’s hard to understand how it influences us still.  It’s part of the atmosphere we breathe; it’s in the water we drink.  When you’ve only ever drank from one water well, you don’t know how one well tastes different than other wells.  History helps us step outside ourselves to see and taste how how our water well is different.  We must have an outside comparison to then have eyes to see what we have grown used to.  

History shows the best heresies — best in terms of causing the most damage to the divine Church — are the ones that arise close to the truth, and only deviate slightly.  When satan tempted Eve, he didn’t come saying eating of trees was bad.  He only caused her to focus on the one forbidden tree.  He took good desires (to eat the fruit of trees) and asked Eve to reason with him about the one forbidden fruit, “Why not eat of it?  It looks good.  It probably tastes good.  It is not any different than the others.  It will make you like gods, knowing good and evil”.  Eve agreed.  Adam never spoke up while he watched the devil speak to his beloved and deny the truth of the word of God.  Satan talked them into ignoring the one warning God gave them.  When mankind joined with Satan, death entered the world.  Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life.

Arius, a catholic priest of the 4th century, caused a similar devilish doubt to arise in the minds of the faithful.  He doubted the mystery of the trinity, and taught others to doubt this mystery.  He reasoned from scripture and swayed many to follow him.  As one contemporary wrote, “The whole world woke up one morning, lamenting and marveling to find itself Arian”.  The fact is, divine truth affects the world.  Even though the mystery of the trinity is a church issue, the consequence of this idea affects the whole world.  Divine revelation matters because it is the only way we come to understand the purpose and design of the universe and mankind.  Without it, we are in the dark.  Ancients did great things in the darkness.  Civilizations flourished because they could stumble into particular truths, but they all perished except for one.  The ancient kingdom of Israel have the divine reveal himself, and they have lasted for thousands of years, watching the rise and fall of worldly kingdoms with only bits and pieces of truth.  The fullness of divine revelation through the ancient kingdom of Israel has found its fulfillment in the Christian era.

Let us remember, when the devil came tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he tempted Jesus not only with good desires (turn inedible stones into useful food), but he came tempting him with good scripture passages about angels protecting him.  Satan was right, the angels would minister to Christ.  Eventually, they did.  But he wanted Jesus to perform miracles to force God’s hand, he wanted Christ to deviate from the way of the cross.  Jesus knew that.  He did not let the devil’s knowledge of scripture and use of scripture tempt him from the divine way.  He knew that man shall not live by one scripture alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Arius, on the other hand, knew not how to resist the devil.  He gave into human reason.  Arius could not fathom how Jesus could be coeternal with the Creator, born before all ages, true God from true God.  Arius could not fathom the divinity of Christ and used scriptures to teach that though Christ was great — the model of humanity even — he still was only created, not creator.  Arius forced the church to respond with true teaching on the divinity of Christ and the nature of the trinity.  Catholic councils found nuances of expression that clarified what the faithful knew to be true from the beginning: “Jesus was begotten, not made”.  Jesus may be born of the blessed virgin, but from ancient of days is his origin.

Unbeknownst at the time, Arius paved the way for future religions to re-introduce future prophets with “new revelations”.  It’s important to note, this heresy was so powerful because of two principal factors which are similar to Luther: (1) he was well trained in the scriptures and (2) he used the scriptures to make his arguments.  Peter, likewise, when called a devil knew the scriptures and used his knowledge of scripture and life to rebuke Jesus and tempt him away from the cross, “God forbid, Lord!  You shall not suffer the cross nor rise from the dead!”  Peter knew the scriptures and he knew about life, but he had yet to understand their meaning.  He had yet to see.  He had yet to understand the mystery of the Crucified One.  He wanted to save God from suffering, a noble desire, but the same desire as the devil.  Like Peter, Catholics must bend our ear at Christ’s words so that we can preserve divine revelation in its fullness.  Better to repent at godly rebuke than persist in devilish error.  The scriptures are a tool to protect divine revelation, but in the wrong hands, they are used to introduce human teachings.  This is the work of the devil.  But the son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.  As Paul taught, the church of God is the pillar and foundation of truth.  We — the offspring of the new Eve — are to be made into the image of Christ, and are likewise called to destroy the works of the devil.

This arian heresy was dealt with by Catholic councils in the 4th century, thanks to a community of heroic saints like Saint Athanasius.  But there was permanent damage done to the church and to the world.  In the following centuries, a new religion arose in the same areas that had most fervently accepted Arian teaching — Islam.  Mohammed, like Arius, could grasp the concept of a sovereign God, but he could not grasp how the son of Mary was true God from true God; and the people of formerly Christian (and strongly Arian) regions in the Middle East, Turkey, and Egypt, gravitated toward s the new religion which spoke of a last prophet.  When people doubt Christ is God, people need further divine revelation.  They need another ‘last’ prophet.  When people believe Jesus is who he claimed to be, who the prophets foretold, and who the apostles proclaimed, people only need the church to be faithful in preserving the testimony about God.  The world needs the church to teach about Jesus in fullness of truth, not by picking and choosing what mysteries the church believes.  In the past two centuries, the heresy of doubting the triune God has been reintroduced into the Protestant world, through Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Thanks to the Catholic church and our saints of old, Protestants have the creeds and tools to combat this ancient arian heresy re-cloaked in new protestant garments.

In the history of the church, the best heretics (in terms of destroying truth) have been priests.  Remember, it was an apostle close to Christ who betrayed our lord, and Jesus was offered up to be crucified by the religious priests.  Surely they knew not what they were doing, yet God was sovereign to accomplish his purposes.  (It is the priests who sacrifice the lamb in the old exodus, the pattern would remain for the new exodus).  But knowing the scriptures is no guarantee of loving truth.  Catholic priests are the best trained in the scriptures, and when they lose the faith, their deviations are so slight and so convincing to human ears, that many are led astray by the man-made teachings they mix with divine revelation.  These are the most difficult to purge, and they lead to the most damage to the church and to the world.  The Catholic church safeguards scripture in two ways, (1) by proclaiming it publicly in the liturgy so all people can hear the word of God directly, and (2) by interpreting the scriptures as a community of believers, not one person, even if that person is a priest or bishop.  The wisdom literature affirms over and over, “A multitude of the wise is the safety of the world”.  The scriptures are best read in context of the liturgy where all can hear, and the scriptures are best interpreted in community with other faithful believers.

The church must always be vigilant regarding ideas.  Ideas are a life and death matter.  They affect the the church and the world.  We must judge the ideas that possessed Martin Luther.  The church must learn to discern good and evil in order to call good “good” and evil “evil”.  Jesus alone is judge of the living and the dead.  But the church guards the truth, hence the church must judge ideas in the light of Christ.  This is how she serves society.  She alone has the fullness of truth.  All other people and communities have aspects of truth.  The Catholic church alone has the fullness of divine truth, the true divine and revealed religion.  Anyone has access to this truth, but they must be catholic to see it.  It is faith that leads to sight.  Somethings are seen by faith.  But one mystery of faith explains many facts.  The mystery of the birth of God proves God loves the world, he loved it so much he came into it in order to save it.  We no longer need to question like the ancients whether God cares for humanity, there is no need for paganism or deism.  God is intimate.  He personally came into the world he created.  We never needed atheism, it is largely nonexistent in ancient societies, ancient humans saw nature proved a designer through the rhythms of life and seasons.  They knew where there is design, there needs to be a designer.  The mechanization of society and removal from direct daily dependence of nature has allowed foolishness of atheism to enter into people’s hearts once again.  But thanks to the Jewish people, we know God not only cares, but he has proven he loves all people by taking on human flesh and dying on a cross.  If we teach falsely about the mystery of the birth of God and his cross, we cannot teach fully on the love of God.  If we cannot teach about the love of God, we cannot free slaves, and slaves will never walk in freedom.  If slaves never walk in freedom, the world will remain the same — fallen and under the tyranny of satan, sin, and death.  It takes these mysteries to help people understand there is a love that conquers death.  We find this love by dying to the world and living to God.  It takes these mysteries to help us see we must lose our life in order to find it.

Luther, a talented priest and promising theologian, like Arius before him, introduced destructive ideas in the form of Catholic heresies.  He paved the way for a flourish of new heresies to exist.  Whereas Arius attacked the godhead, Luther attacked the church body.  Whereas Arius misunderstood Jesus, Luther misunderstood his bride.  Whereas Arius took shots at Christ’s divinity, Luther took shots at Christ’s authority.  While Arius used his charisma and personal charm, Luther took advantage of new methods of using mass media — the printing press.  The Catholic church has been dealing with heretics for two thousand years.  Danger abounds when we accept the heresy because it has spread through the church like leaven.  We must purge evil from our midst.  If we purge evil ideas, we will find good people.  If we purge good ideas, we will find evil people.  “When your mind is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.  Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness”.

In Richard III, Shakespeare paints a picture of a life lived in darkness.  Richard lives not a life of loving service, he lives a life of destruction.  He called others to die for him without ever dying for them.  First his brothers, and then his nephews, the princes.  Later he went into battle to keep what he had stolen.  And ultimately, he had nothing left and his life ends with bitter pleas, “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”.  All the death and carnage and lies, what did it amount to?  All Richard had in the end he was willing to trade for a horse!  When the play started, he had everything.  His beloved brother was the king of England.  He had prestige and power and lands.  He had the winsome quality of winning women in every way possible.  If he could convince wives he personally turned into widows to marry him, surely he could convince unbetrothed ladies to be his beautiful bride.  But he used his talents to take power for himself, not to serve his family nor his country.  And in the end, he had not even a horse.  He died in denial.  Everything taken from him.  He took the one life given to him and used it to spread darkness, death, and destruction.  All is forgiven, but we must ask for forgiveness to receive forgiveness.

 

Papist Global Parable

Let us consider Luther’s particular protests through catholic eyes, using a parable to put Luther into a modern context.  Imagine a bank, but not any bank, the first bank in the world.  The bank has a charter from the ruler of a country, let’s say Israel (for lack of originality).  It was a federal bank, but its design was always to pass into the hands of clients and employees at the fulfillment of specific criteria.  The ruler was only attempting to kickstart the global banking industry.  Once the criteria was met, the king would fulfill the original charter with a substantial deposit of funds (in faith).  Ownership would then transfer from the king to clients and employees of the bank.  It would thereafter be owned by private citizens who would run the bank under new articles of incorporation in accord with the original design by the king.  It would thereby become a publicly owned bank, governed by shareholders, and run by a CEO.

Time passes.  Fifteen hundred years in fact.  This bank, let’s call it Papist Global, has spread to every continent and to many nations sharing the good news of their financial services with the world.  In the beginning, issues arose in Israel and they moved headquarters to Rome, the center of world power.  The first CEO thought this would better spread their financial services to all nations.  The saying back then was literally true, “all roads lead to Rome”.  Israel had been plagued with war and threat of war since before the bank was founded, but if Papist Global could get a foothold in the capital of the Empire, they’d be able to provide their services from England to India and all around the Mediterranean by capitalizing on Roman infrastructure.

Like all human endeavors, there have been troubles arising inside and outside Papist Global throughout its long history.  There have always been issues working in new locales and getting a foothold in different cultures.  Corruption has threatened Papist Global, both from within the bank and from without the bank.  But this bank built modern Europe and provided valuable services throughout the world.  In fact, after fifteen centuries, the bank was on its 218th CEO!  No other company in history has such longevity nor global reach.  It has become the universal bank to lift the world out of financial poverty.  This was all possible because of the king who saw the need for a global banking industry.

During the leadership of the 218th CEO, there is a little bank teller in an area of Germany called Martin Luther.  He’s brash, he’s funny, he’s a brilliant writer, a promising banker, and he’s known throughout Germany and Northern Europe.  Germany is not unified at the time, like it is now, and throughout the land there are little princes with loose ties to an emperor.  The many princes vary in their opinions about the bank, some love it, some hate it, but all of them use it.  In some way or another, they find it useful for the people and for their own princedoms.  The bank took an ancient empire and formed modern Europe.

To make a long parable shorter, this little bank teller begins taking advantage of new media to spread messages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about how the CEO is a joke and the bank filled with liars.  Some people think him hilarious; others think his behavior horrible.  They don’t think its right to bite the hand that feeds you.  Lately, the bank teller has been telling everyone that the only thing that matters for the bank is portions of the original charter and articles of incorporation (sola scriptora baby!).  As he tells everyone, all people need for banking are the articles of the bank, not the bank itself.

Time passes and this rogue bank teller becomes popular.  Some of the princes and clients are even starting to join in on the complaints about the CEO and Papist Global.  The emperor starts having issues with his peasants and his princes, and he tells the CEO, “Hey, you got to get down here.  There’s a little bank teller stirring up all kinds of trouble.  He’s saying your an idiot and he’s causing a lot of people to even question if the bank exists or has any authority for financial transactions.  People are not sure whether they should even have accounts with the bank anymore.  He brings up all kinds of stuff from the articles of incorporation”.  The CEO tells the emperor, “Why don’t you handle it?  We’ve seen these issues before.  I’ll send some of my guys to advise you, maybe you guys can all go out to lunch and settle the issues like last time.  What’s that popular restaurant up there, Diet of Worms?”  The CEO and emperor both agree to handle the problem of this rogue teller in this way.

The bank teller and the representatives of the emperor and Papist Global go out to lunch at the Diet of Worms to clear up all misunderstandings.  Rather than apologizing for slandering the CEO and telling clients, princes, and employees falsehoods about the bank, Martin Luther digs in and says he’s right, “They are a bunch of idiots and have no clue what’s going on”.  In fact, he says “Unless you can prove to me that I’m wrong from the articles of incorporation, I ain’t gonna believe you”.  The lawyers kept trying, but he was so stubborn he wouldn’t listen to reason.  Finally, they had no choice but to tell Martin Luther “Okay.  You can’t be a bank teller here anymore.  You obviously cannot carry out your functions, and we cannot have you making fun of the CEO and the bank like you have been”.  Martin Luther said, “That’s fine.  I got issue with parts of the original charter and articles anyways, I want to try things my own way.  I got a local prince who will fund my own bank.  That’s all I need.  I’ll take your articles and make my own bank”.

Now, what should Papist Global have done?  How long should they put up with a belligerent bank teller?  Their own employee?  Also, important for the catholic, is the bank Martin Luther starts a part of the original bank?  Or just a copy of the original bank?  And if he said all you need is the articles of incorporation, why did he even start a new bank?  Why not just take the articles and live according to his beliefs?

 

Attack on Truth

Shakespeare’s whole canon of plays answers these questions for catholics.  We learn through Shakespeare the destruction of heresy in a kingdom and the cost of restoration.  Shakespeare gives us the encouragement and hope to do as God would have done, not according to human logic, but in accord with his divine revelation.  Shakespeare teaches us to love the one, true, holy, and Catholic church and Shakespeare teaches us how to guard against false teachings and devils disguised as saints.  Richard III is only one play of many. 

The root issue for a Catholic is Luther was a Catholic priest who was teaching falsely what the Catholic church teaches and believes.  He took Catholic training, Catholic scriptures, Catholic traditions, and used them to attempt to destroy the Catholic church.  This is the Catholic perspective on Martin Luther.  Martin Luther misunderstood the scriptures, especially the Pauline scriptures, and spread his false teachings through the use of the printing press.  Martin Luther was right in one sense, the church needed to be improved.  She always needs to be improved.  She must always purge evil from her midst.  Evil will always be lurking, ready to take root in the minds of men.  The church is a hospital for sinners and not a mausoleum for saints.  Because she is a hospital for sinners, she will not be fully healed from evil and its effects until she is lifted to Christ forever.  But the way Luther went about improving the bride of Christ was to slander her and teach falsely about her.  This is not how Christ desires the men of God to prepare his bride.

Using the example of the parable, can a church be run based on one priest’s personal interpretation of the scriptures?  Does one person’s interpretation of the new testament decide everything about the church?  What about other christians?  What about the apostles and bishops and other priests?  What about the many popes — the two hundred eighteen popes! — who have served the church and decided how to administer it over fifteen hundred years?  Did Martin Luther alone have the gift of the holy spirit and all these other christians — over 15 centuries! — lack the gift of the holy spirit?  Should all these christians bow to the pressure of one priest’s opinion because he shares them with the world?  This sounds more like tyranny than liberty.

What if Martin Luther is wrong?  What about truth?  Would not more than one person see the same truths if truth is objective?  Do not the scriptures say “a multitude of the wise is the safety of the world”?  Are we not told in our first stories that death came into this world through only one man?  Why should one priest’s opinion be valued above all other people, priests, bishops, saints, and popes?  Why should one priest’s opinion be valued above fifteen hundred years of church existence?  Do the scriptures, interpreted by one person, take precedent over the communal understanding of the church over fifteen centuries and more than two hundred popes and saints as many as the stars in the sky?  These are the questions Catholic Christians ask about Martin Luther.  For Catholics must protect truth, and the sacred scriptures tell us, truth is protected not by one rogue priest but by the whole household of God, the living church.

Shakespeare, through Richard III, teaches us to recognize devilish patterns, especially when they are cloaked in, and quoting, saintly scriptures.  From the beginning, Richard confesses his intents to prove the villain.  And early on we hear him confess,

"But then I sigh, and with a piece of scripture
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ,
And then seem a saint when most I play the devil.” 

From the beginning of Richard III we know it is a study in villainy.  Richard tells us so in his soliloquies.  The joy of the play is to see how masterful Richard accomplishes his purposes by weaving his words to satisfy the ears of all those around him.  We Catholics are made wise to the ways of the devil thanks to the wisdom of Shakespeare.  

And for a 16th century Catholic, many heresies in the world came from misunderstanding not Christ’s words but Paul’s.  It is particular poignant that Shakespeare has Richard, throughout the play, say things like “By Saint Paul I’ll strike thee to my foot” or “By holy Paul they love his Grace but lightly that fill his ears with such dissentious rumors”.  Richard, like Martin Luther, is constantly invoking Saint Paul to his own convenience.  And not for the sake of truth.

Shakespeare’s genius gives many soliloquies of Richard early on, and then as the play progresses the soliloquies fade away and we see Richard’s behaviors.  We see the effects of his ideas on others.  Early on, we see how his mind works.  As the play progresses, we see the effect his mind has on his behaviors, and ultimately the damage he does to England.

Through the play of Richard III, Shakespeare teaches us to judge the aftermath of what Luther left.  When he attacked the church, even invoking sacred scriptures, he created a precedent.  If a priest could take parts of a bible and start a new church, what is to stop others from doing it?  Luther set a pattern, all that mattered to start a church was not divine authority or objective truth, but personal opinion and parts of scripture.  What was the result?  

Within the same century (by end of 16th century), whole nations were dealing with other Protestant movements within Catholic societies in Europe.  The claim was that the divinely appointed church could not be trusted to pass along divine revelation.  That particular people could interpret truth alone.  The community, history, traditions were not important because we can all determine truth by one person’s reading and understanding of an ancient text.  Christendom suffered a profound splintering, and the truth no longer had a united household to protect divine (and thereby, objective) truth.

Within two centuries (by the end of the 18th century), and so many Christian “churches” abounding with various interpretations of truth, leading thinkers began doubting whether there was such thing as revealed religion.  The enlightenment arose glorying in the thoughts of philosophers who essentially ended in the deistic beliefs of a creator God who did not actively work in the world.  The facts about the birth of God were forgotten.  A mystery of faith removed from Western culture.

Within three centuries (by end of the 19th century), truth itself was attacked.  Remember, Saint Paul said the church, the household of God, was a “pillar and fortress of truth”.  By attacking the church, Luther did not realize, he was the first wave of assault on truth.  By dividing Christendom, he opened the way for truth to be attacked and for the world to live in the time were everyone is his own judge “doing right by there own eyes”.  If the church could not agree about the one who says “I am the truth”, what chance does the world have in believing there is even such a thing as truth?  The church alone has eyes of faith in the invisible Creator, the source of the universe, the objective standard by which all mankind can measure truth.  

So by the end of the 19th century you have famous German philosophers saying ludicrous statements like “God is dead” and other German writers creating systems of government like communism, which replaces a living god with a tyrannical government.  Marx said “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead constituting them on a new basis”.  If you abolish the eternal, you replace it with what dies.  Communism is doomed from the start, a sick system born out of the weakened logic of man, destined only for death and destruction it so loudly boasts in its underlying logic.  Who is man to claim he abolishes eternity?  Man is like the beasts that perish.

The 20th century reaped the seeds sown by the attack on the church and truth over the course of four hundred years and became the ultimate slaughterhouse in the history of humanity.  World Wars of such brutality and viciousness spurred by the “enlightenment” of man’s scientific advancement without the calibrating saneness of objective truth — a divine source — to ground morality.  The result is all the created technologies and advancement, inventions and splendor of human thought, were used to slaughter human beings like cattle.  When the world buys into the idea “only the strong survive”, the children of the world prove the idea true.  When the world believes the idea “all men are created equal endowed by their Creator”, the children of faith protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Whereas our ancient ancestors may have created a Tower of Babel to ascend to God, we modern humans created a living hell on earth.  Nature could not cover our shame as soldiers watered the earth with their blood.  When there is no truth to defend “all men are made in the image of their Maker”, there is no reason to obey “thou shalt not kill”.  If God is dead, so is man.  God alone is the guarantee of objective truth.  Death reigned in the aftermath of Luther’s attack on the church.

And you say, Luther can’t be blamed for the aftermath of his ideas?  I agree.  Each is accountable to their Maker for their own mistakes.  The servant is responsible to his master.  But by one Adam’s sin, death entered the world; by one Martin Luther’s protests, death reigned in Europe for over four hundred years.  But not just Europe.  It started in Germany.  Within five years of the Diet of Worms attempting to resolve Luther’s error, Germany was aflame in the Peasant Wars.  What Luther failed to learn from the stories of scripture, the way we conduct revolutions and reformations matter.  No matter how much Christ’s bride looks like a huddled harem of whores, she is the pure beloved beauty of her bridegroom.  Luther as priest was called to tend her wounds, not walk away shouting over his shoulder, “physician heal thyself”.  He had taken a vow and broke it.  And he broke it in a most vicious and public manner.  Rather than preparing the bride of Christ for her bridegroom, he cut off her limbs.  Luther maimed and hobbled her so that shed’ stumble down the aisle like a drunken solider reeling from the evils seen in war.

Like Arias before him, Luther’s behaviors had far-reaching effects.  The problems of the church were only a reflection of society.  The church sets the example for the world.  When the priests publicly protest and rebel against the pope, is it no wonder peasants follow their priest’s example and rebel against their princes?  His behaviors set an example which was followed.  The people followed his pattern of rebellion and serfs were sent into the slaughter.  More than one hundred thousand souls were slain, chronicled by Shakespeare, “the imminent death of one hundred thousand men, that for a fantasy and trick of fame go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, which is not tomb enough and continent to hide the slain”.

The precedence for revolution in Germany in the 16th century and the rest of Europe for four centuries was set by an ex-Catholic priest gone bad.  Because Martin Luther exalted his own way of handling things, not heeding the pattern revealed by the stories of scripture, others would too.  The influence of Martin Luther’s ideas extended beyond the church.  This is why the way matters for Christendom.  We set the ideal for the world.  When we falter, the world suffers.  If we cannot be conformed to Christ’s ways, how can we ever expect the world to learn them?  If a Catholic priest, or Catholic Europe, could forget God’s ways, what chance does the world have in learning them?  The church must handle ideas and truth as carefully as souls, inevitably the ideas in the church influence the world and all souls.  Let us heed the wise words of the savior’s brother, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”.

Luther might not have realized at the time, when you deny the body, the head has no place to rest.  While Arius denied the divinity of Christ, Luther denied his body had any authority.  Luther decapitated Christ.  Christendom lost its memory (which is natural, the body was being torn apart and separated from the head), and history was being revised by atheists and agnostics and deists who denied objective truth and preferred people’s personal opinions — worldly versions of what Luther did to the church.  Likewise, the history we learned in America at the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st has gone from primary sources focused on truth, God, and his revealed religion, to several degrees of separation by human eyes with little concept of God and less relationship.  We have gone from primary to tertiary sources, and these tertiary sources have not the eyes to see the heavenly kingdom.  Without sight, they know not the confusion of the world, grappling in the dark to make sense of chaos.  Ultimately, there was so much death and human suffering that hope in a living God dimmed throughout Western society.  The devil was encouraging us to forget, and worse, later the devil used Luther’s writings for Nazi propaganda to slaughter millions of the children of God.  The wake of Luther’s life is destruction and death.

In Shakespeare’s Richard III, he also highlights the death and destruction that comes when devilish ideas take root in a kingdom.  Though he limits the story to England in the 14th century, he creates parallels and allegories in which Catholics recognize Luther through his phrasing and cause us to reflect on God’s kingdom, his church, the people of God, and the world.  The story is a study of villainy.  He equips Catholics how to recognize villains and devils, especially when they appear as saints.  And Shakespeare teaches us through English history and symbolically interpreting church history, the misuse of the word of God always leads to death.  In the garden of Eden, it was the fall of mankind.  In the garden of Germany, it was an attack on Christendom.  Philosophers attempted to kill the church, proclaimed God dead, and raised up ideas of government to replace God.  Death and destruction abounded.

 

Restoration

Now, when the garden of Eden brought the fall of the world, God was working restoration by his promises.  Similarly, when the garden of Germany hastened the splintering of Christendom, God was working a unique restoration.  As Americans, the aftermath of Luther’s ideas had positive effect in creating our civil society.  Though tyranny reigned in Europe, there was a new continent, a brave new world being discovered and settled by the refugees fleeing the darkness descending upon Europe, a place that was the rebirth of the world only centuries before Luther.

Now, we’ve been clear on the negative effect of Luther.  Let us highlight also the positive.  He gave a pattern of an entrepreneurial spirit that gives confidence to every man.  If someone could take scriptures and start a new church, could they not also take ideas and start a new government?  This is what happened.

One hundred years after the Diet of Worms, the first refugees were fleeing to settle colonies chartered by Shakespeare’s earthly king, James I.  First Anglicans in Virginia, then Puritans in Massachusetts, and later Catholics in Maryland.  Within two hundred and fifty years, the offspring of these persecuted peoples were demanding their freedom from tyranny.  They petitioned the government of England over and over.  Finally they declared their independence.  And won it.

The Declaration of Independence, memorialized in written form, a papered monument for a newborn and living country, is marvelous for it was a reversal of the evil descending upon Europe.  Where elite European thinkers were removing God and proclaiming him dead and societies splintering, the scattered colonies of America were uniting into one people, and were proclaiming their basis of human rights on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The Declaration is even dated it by the birth of our Lord, the king of the Jews.  The Judeo-Christian God is the source of our American beliefs in mankind’s universal and inalienable rights.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  This nation was rooting the inviolable rights of all citizens in the eternal God of Jesus and his forefathers.  No longer would tyrants be able to easily take the lives of American citizens, the founding fathers have given us a means to protect our rights till our King returns.

Now, let me ask one question.  Can an American today — let’s say in Daytona, Florida — take the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and say “I’m starting my own America”.  Is that all it takes to create your own America?  One person and a few lines from our founding documents?  Is not being an American rejoicing in a brotherhood of American people?  Do not loyal and patriotic Americans seek to make America better rather than make new countries?  Do not loyal Americans rejoice in our beloved country, even when she suffers country?  Do we not love her even through her sometime ugliness, with the hope that our love will make her beautiful?  Do we not love America, even when she forgets what she stands for, forgets what she was made for, forgets what she is capable of because it is our role to remind her?  Does not our love for her cause us to remember our hopes and dreams and ideals as Americans?  Is it not only a great privilege to be American but also an important responsibility?  A duty not only to our fellow citizens but also our past ancestors and future descendants?  Is this not how we honor the memory of those who secured such great liberty at the cost of their very own blood, toil, sacrifice, and lives?  

Let us not be fooled, no nation loves men and makes men great.  But men do love nations and through loyal love create great men and great nations.  But God must be on our side.  For that to happen, we must align our lives to his will and obey the words stamped on our silver dollar “in God we trust” and “out of many, one”.  Otherwise, we will be like the ancient civilizations of the world who came and went.  Do we not prefer to be like the ancient Israelites or the church who are with God forever?

A man is free to leave America and take up residence in some other corner of the world.  But America is more than her founding documents.  She is the people that birthed her.  She is the culture that guided her, sustained her, she is the Africans and Americans and Asians and Europeans that settled here.  She is much more than a Declaration of Independence, but at her best she lives up to the ideals the Declaration strives for — freedom from tyranny and a place where all are equal in the eyes of our Creator.

Can you see why the Catholic church would look at what Luther did and say, “That’s not a Catholic priest”.  There is more to being a Christian than holding a few scriptures in your hand.  Like Paul, we rejoice whenever Christ is proclaimed, whether out of envy and rivalry or out of good will.  But we know there is more to being a follower of the Crucified One than creating fan clubs for Christ.  We rejoice when the name of Jesus is proclaimed, whether by the lips of a Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant Christian, but as Catholics, we are commanded to preach the fullness of truth, and we can not walk away from the bride of Christ and settle for anything less than obedience to every word of God.  We’ve eaten of the passover lamb and celebrate with thanksgiving, and we are learning to see.  To stay away from the lamb’s supper would be a return to darkness for us, a dimming of the light, a halfway house to atheism, not the beauty that is the divine faith, not the truth that is the Catholic Christian faith.

Now, if certain Catholics, like Martin Luther, lose the faith, and decide to become ex-catholics, we can do no more than pray for their souls and seek to save them from the error of their ways.  We can do no more than strive to reunite the Church.  Let us hear Shakespeare’s healing words, in the aftermath of civil war, he proclaims to his people in the last scene of Richard III,

"Inter their bodies as becomes their births,
Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled,
That in submission will return to us,
And then as we have taken the sacrament
We will unite the white rose and the red.
Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
That long have frowned upon their enmity.
What traitor hears me, and says not amen?
Christendom hath long been mad, and scarred herself.
The brother blindly shed the brother’s blood,
The father rashly slaughtered his own son,
The son, compelled, been butcher to the sire.
All this divided Catholic and Protestant,
Divided in their dire division.
O now, let the king and queen of heaven,
The true everlasting royal family,
By God’s fair ordinance join us together.
And let their heirs, God (if they will be so),
Enrich the time to come with good news of peace,
With smiling plant fair and prosperous days.”

 

A New Martin Luther

American Catholics do have great reason to rejoice.  Even though our nation was conceived in sin, she was washed in the blood of the North American martyrs and patriots, and God continually calls us to return to Him and seek forgiveness for our sin.  May he continue to do so.  The great men, like our founding fathers, had not the strength to live in the fullness of faith.  For example, we inherited at our birth the evil institution of slavery.  Among our many birth pangs was we could only free colonies, not colored people.  Freedom for all people had yet to come in our land.  Slavery had risen in the aftermath of the Reformation in Europe, and in a particularly savage and devilish way.  The very essence of Judeo-Christian stories — we serve a God who sets slaves free — was forgotten.  While men were using the bible to justify slavery, our nation had to enter into war because we had forgotten our history and how to interpret the bible.  We had forgotten the divine religion only came to us because God chose to free a family of slaves and make a nation.  The holy scriptures exist only because God frees slaves!  The old testament scriptures exist because God desires to free slaves and help them walk in freedom.  Thankfully, God gave us a President who saw this and a people who were willing to lay down their lives for change.  Our president, Abe Lincoln, saw the essence of the divine character of God, and that great Abe gave us a new birth of freedom in our land.  He set roughly four million slaves free.

But our soul was still sick.  Healing does not come easy.  We began coughing up unjust laws and spewing out horrible behaviors once again.  But God is merciful to our fair land.  He honored the ideals we set forth in our Declaration, he honored the country we strive to be, even when we fall short.  As God’s guidance came to the chosen people in their darkest hour by the raising of priests, kings, and prophets, our Creator has provided us with great people of truth, like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

For Dr. King came at the appointed time for our struggling nation.  Indeed, with difficulty one might die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person or ideal one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for our nation and all of Christendom, that while we were still reeling in our sickness and segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr came to show us the divine way and laid down his life for us, for our nation, and for God’s everlasting kingdom.  Indeed, by this great American Christian, God reconciled all Americans and gave hope that not only our souls could be healed, not only our nation could be healed, but all of Christendom.

As American Catholics, there is a particularly sweet truth, we now have a Martin Luther to celebrate with our separated brethren.  In every way in which Martin Luther was heroic, Dr. King was more heroic.  Whereas the first Martin Luther divided a people, the last Martin Luther united a people tearing apart.  Whereas the first Martin Luther came with scripture and spewing vitriolic hate, the last Martin Luther came with the sweet psalms of our Lord and his Holy Word.  Whereas the first Martin Luther had disdain for the scriptures and his church, the last Martin Luther used the values proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence to help heal the nation, to remind us who we are created to be.  Whereas the first Martin Luther chose doctrines in lieu of truth, the last Martin Luther told stories that inspired us to dream of a day where truth is proclaimed and lived by.  The world has a new Martin Luther which all people can honor and celebrate, Christendom has the true Martin Luther, our great and very own American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King shows us a still more excellent way.  He shows us a love that is patient; a love that is kind, not jealous; a love that is neither pompous, nor inflated, nor rude; a love that does not seek its own interests, nor is quick-tempered, nor broods over injury; a love that does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  Dr. King shows us a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Dr. King shows us Jesus.  And Jesus is the love that never fails.

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any man-made doctrine, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God which was proclaimed and shown in and through Jesus.  Jesus is the divine way.  And Dr. King, a servant like Moses, points us to the divine revolution.  He preached the true Jesus, a man who desires to heal souls and came to save the world and make ready a beloved bride.

Sound the drums and trumpets boldly, and cheerfully, for all American Christians can sing as one “God and his servants!  Christendom and victory!  Christ our King and his beautiful bride!”


O Luther didst receive the sacrament to fight
In quarrel of the corruption of Christendom.
And like a traitor to the house of God,
Didst break that vow.  With man-made teachings
Unrip’st thou the body of thy king’s kingdom
Whom thou was sworn to cherish and defend?
How can thou urge God’s love to us,
When thou hast broke it in such dear degree?
How can thou urge obedience to us,
When thou hast disobeyed thy lord Jesus?
Follow our Lord and the Church he died to free
There is but one head with divine authority.

By holy Paul, they love his Church but lightly
They attack the One, Holy, Catholic church
Flying arrows to pierce her holy side
While all they do is dissent and divide
“Sola scriptora” grew many man-made doctrine’s
Which they use to doubt and deny divine revelation
The true goal of their devilish attack — 
The church, the truth, and God’s holy Word
Objective truth exiled from their communions
they exalted man’s own little opinion,
And remain forever tied to a self-made tyranny
Of bad logic, false love, and faulty reasoning.

By holy Peter, learn to love his Church truly
Return to the fullness of divine revelation!
Heed Paul’s warnings in letter to Timothy,
“Now the Spirit says in the last days
Some will turn away from the faith
Paying attention to deceitful spirits
and demonic instructions through hypocrisy
of liars with broadened consciences.
They forbid marriage and require abstinence
From foods that God created to be received
With thanksgiving by those who believe
And know the truth and paschal mystery. 
For everything Created by God is good (especially,
His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church),
and nothing is to be rejected when received
with thanksgiving, for it is made holy
by the invocation of God in prayer.”

Like our holy Apostles, let us love his church truly. 
Say with me, “I believe
in one, holy, Catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.  Amen.”

By holy Christ, let us love his one true bride.