Daily, in the Benedictus, we read these lines pertaining to God and His People:
....to remember his holy covenant
and the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
that he would give himself to us,
that we could serve him without fear
– freed from the hands of our enemies –
in uprightness and holiness before him,
for all of our days.
The words of Moses to Pharaoh come to mind as well:
Exodus 7:16 Douay-Rheims
16 And thou shalt say to him: The Lord God of the Hebrews sent me to thee saying: Let my people go to sacrifice to me in the desert: and hitherto thou wouldst not hear.
The reasons for the promise of land, a special place, for God's People could be summed up in two phrases: safety and purity of worship.
The Hebrews, like all religious groups, needed space to be safe from the many enemy tribes, whose cultures were, simple, "cultures of death".
The "culture of life" came from the covenant, the relationship with God the Father, who visited His People regularly through the patriarchs, prophets, and holy women of old. But, in order to live out the life of this relationship, the people needed a place of safety.
Religious freedom means the ability to worship and believe freely without fear of persecution or hindrance. Religious freedom was made possible by the taking of the Promised Land. God, in His Divine Providence, made a place for His People, and a place of preparation for the Incarnation. His Son came "in the fullness of time" to a particular people, a particular place,
As Catholics, we are now facing an almost global uprising of rejection of both Christ and His Church. Like the Hebrews of old and even the Jews of today, we need a place in order to feel safe and worship freely as Christians.
Is there such a place? Many people have asked me, "Is there a safe haven?"
We long for this place of safety and religious freedom in order to live out our relationship with God and His Church. Like the great saints whose feast day we celebrate today, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, we face the same restrictions but in more subtle forms.
Let us pray for a promised land, a place of safety, a place of religious freedom, where the Laws of God and the natural law may be followed in the market place.
This dream of the ancients, and even of More and Fisher, seems to be slipping away into the past,
Yes, heaven is our true home, but as humans who live, work, play, rest on this earth, we need that place of safety and the freedom to praise God as we see fit.