"God's original command to Pharaoh runs as follows: 'Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.' (Ex. 7:16) These words- 'Let me people go, that they may serve me'- appear four times, with slight variations, in all the meetings of Pharaoh with Moses and Aaron." (Spirit of the Liturgy, Ratzinger, p.15) (emphasis mine)Pharaoh, like many rulers to follow him, tries many compromises and accommodations with Moses (first telling him to worship God in Egypt, then allowing only the men to go, and finally allowing all to go except the cattle):
"But Moses cannot negotiate about the liturgy with a foreign potentate nor can he subject worship to any form of political compromise. . . the only goal of the Exodus is shown to be worship, which can only take place according to God's measure and therefore eludes the game of political compromise." (Spirit of the Liturgy, p.16)This sounds all too familiar to us. As it does to our brethren who live under cruel regimes in other parts of the world. Just as Pharaoh could not decide for the Israelites how they were to worship God, so goes the same for any government today or in the future. The current administration has purposely changed the phrase "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship" in public pronouncements. But I, and many others, are certain that they do not mean the freedom to worship that was given to the Israelites by God in Exodus. In essence, freedom of religion means that people are at liberty to live their religion in every aspect of their life without hindrance from the state. In great contrast, freedom to worship means simply that people can say their whispered prayers in bed at night.
But worshipping God is more than praying to Him in the quiet of our homes. The Israelites were already worshipping God in their homes when Moses was sent to them by God; God released them from their bondage so they could worship Him with their liturgy and their lives.
"Cult, liturgy. . . is part of this worship, but so too is life according to the will of God; such a life is an indispensable part of true worship. . . Ultimately, it is the very life of man, man himself living righteously, that is the true worship of God, but life only becomes real life when it receives its form from looking toward God." (Spirit of the Liturgy, p.18)Christ commanded the apostles: "Go out into the whole world and preach the Good News, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Mk. 16:15) He did not say,"Stay in the Upper Room, say your prayers, and go back to being fishermen." It is quite ironic that many of the same people who say Christians never act Christ-like, are the same ones who are forcing us against the commands of Christ. Faith is not put on, on Sunday, and taken off during the week. If it were, we would be like the Pharisees that Christ spoke of when he said:
"Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'" (Mk.7: 6-7)To deprive men of the freedom of true worship, the freedom to practice their faith, is a grave injustice. Again, our current pontiff eloquently elaborates:
"When morality and law do not originate in a God-ward perspective, they degrade man, because they rob him of his highest measure and his highest capability, deprive him of any vision of the infinite and eternal." (p.19)When this, or any, government takes away man's freedom of religion, they take away his hope itself. Man was made to live in happiness with God forever; without true freedom to worship, man is deprived of the hope that points to this beatitude, and so deprived of the moral code that would aid him in reaching this blessed goal.
During this Lent, please continue to fast and pray for an end to persecution, for courageous leaders to arise, and for our families to strengthen and preserve the Faith.