Living The Worthy Life: What Would Bishop Sheen Do?
Today we live in troubled times. Today we see things happening in politics that we have never seen happen before. With a week left in his presidency, we have the House of Representatives voting for the second time to impeach a sitting President. What would Bishop Sheen say about this mixture of politics and religion? Well, we do not have to go too far to actually find out what he would say. In his book, Characters of the Passion (Liguouri/Triumph), a book written in 1947. He takes a look at the characters that played a role in the Passion of Jesus Christ and relates them to our modern world. No one today would call 1947 modern, but the lessons of the Passion held true in 1947 and still do today. The greatest lesson here is that the more time passes the more things stay the same.
In Chapter 3, “Pilate: A Lesson on Political Power”, Sheen discussed public opinion as it relates to politics. He stated, “Those who have their finger on the pulse of contemporary civilization have probably noted that there are two contradictory charges against religions today. The first is that religion is not political enough; the other is that religion is too political. On the one hand, the Church is blamed for being too divine, and on the other, for not being divine enough. It is hated because it is too heavenly and hated because it is too earthly.” Ergo, things have not really changed. Are we not just going through the motions many times in our own life. Can a person be blamed for trying to do good for people? Can a person be blamed for helping others out? Can a person be blamed for doing too much?
Sheen also portrayed the political/religious process as Jesus stood before the political Pontius Pilate and the religious authorities of his day, Annas and Caiaphas. Christ was accused of being too religious before Anna and Caiaphas. Under the veil of mock indignation at the supposed insult to God’s majesty, Christ was declared too religious, too concerned with souls, too infallible, and too Godly. After all, they cornered him into declaring Himself to be God. Are we becoming just like the people of the Old Testament? Are we just setting up standards that can never be achieved and looking to hold people accountable for things that we refuse to do or should do ourselves? It is now and forever has been much easier to point out other people’s problems thn to come to groups with our own.
Sheen wrote in 1947, “Because He was too religious, He was not political enough. The religious judges said that He had no concern for the fact that the Romans were their masters, and that they might take away their country (John 11:47-48). By talking about a spiritual kingdom, a higher moral law, and His divinity, and by becoming the leader of a spiritual crusade, He was accused of being indifferent to the needs of the people and nation’s well being.”
In retrospect, this chapter of this book could have pointed out the events of 2021. Bishop Fulton Sheen may never have met in person the people who took part in these events but he knew about these events simply because he knew that people have not changed. Events may have different names, we may call people different names, but in the grand scheme of things, most things remain the same.
Preaching Christianity is sometimes labeled as dangerous and incendiary. Can you imagine exercising your rights could actually offend someone? In the Declaration of Independence, we are told that our rights were God given. However, if God gave of us these rights to use, how can a government of men and women take them away? For instance, on the issue of many different subjects, the Church is increasingly coming under fire for its teachings.
Never mind that the teaching advocates loving the sinner but hating the sin; politicians claim that it’s not okay to hate the sin. Any teaching against this sin is more and more being labeled “hate” and said to encourage discrimination. Christians are not being allowed moral stances that could be viewed as discriminating against a lifestyle. Such a social straitjacket makes it impossible to teach right and wrong because it will offend the people engaging in the wrong. We can not have anyone offended in our country. Because of this very thing, Congress has begun saying Amen after their prayers, they are going to say A woman. This is exactly why Bishop Sheen’s voice is needed today now more than ever
As Sheen reminded us back in 1947, “It was Jesus Christ who suffered under Pontius Pilate; it was not Pontius Pilate who suffered under Jesus Christ. The grave danger today is not religion in politics but politics in religion.” Amen