Caught in the Middle
Over the centuries the Church has experienced a variety of political conditions. In certain eras the Church was welcomed, endorsed, and even subsidized by governments. At other times, the Church was exiled from public life. Through the rise and fall of secular rulers, the Church has stood for the truth of Christ, but has not always remained free of influence.
Today is the Feast of Saint Hermogenes, the Patriarch of Moscow. Placed in the middle of Russian and Polish politics in the 16th Century, he was exiled multiple times under the unrighteous influence of Czars and Kings, who enjoyed the power of lording religion over people. In the case of Saint Hermogenes, it was the Roman Catholic Poles fighting against the Orthodox Russians.
Unfortunately, much has remained the same today. Governments use the Church to their advantage. The Church, all the while trying to keep the peace and preach the truth, is forced into compromises with powerful rulers. Conveniently, today’s reading in honor of Saint Theodore the Recruit reminds us of our real loyalty.
Timothy, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.2nd Timothy 2:1-10
Could Saint Paul have been warning us about getting caught in the middle of politics? I would say, most definitely! I compare it to the advice of Saint Basil when he spoke against arguing with science. In his “On the Six Days of Creation” he laments that scientists prove themselves wrong every other year. Why should we bother engaging them. We only end up looking foolish.
The same is true with politics. Morals shift within populations across time. What is taboo today is glorified tomorrow, and vice versa. When the Church allows itself to get caught in the middle, either in politics or social mores, by endorsing one side over another we WILL get caught. Our aim is to satisfy Christ, not governments.
Well said, Father. Thank you. Liz Carney