Religious liberty was a controversial topic, religious liberty was either comforting or threatening to the faith, depending on the region. In America, religious freedom was a guaranteed constitutional right that helped Christianity thrive. In Latin American, aggressively polemic American evangelicals were eager to poach the Catholic faithful. In the communist Eastern bloc, the persecuted Church dreamed of guaranteed rights to religious liberty so the Church could thrive. In continental Europe, many Catholics equated religious liberty with the ideas of the French Revolution and its hatred of all things religious. In Italy and Spain the Catholic Church was granted preferential treatment by the state, would a new emphasis on religious liberty lead to a loss of faith in these countries? […]
We in the modern world are so quick to condemn the ancients for misogyny, for not treating women as equals, for subjugating women, we forget how dangerous it was to be a woman in the ancient world. Indeed, those in the ancient world would be puzzled by these accusations, they would reply that their entire culture is built around the need to protect women, for it was dangerous for pretty women to be wandering about town for any reason, rape was a constant threat, women were sequestered partially for their protection. The Hebrews in the Old Testament culture did not sequester women quite as much as the Greeks, many of the stories in the Old Testament describe how romances center around the wells where the women draw water for their flocks. This was true even in the middle ages, St Francis and his monks could choose to minister to the townspeople, but St Claire and her nuns were always cloistered. […]
St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when we fulfill the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.” When we live a godly life, the immediate reward is the living of a godly life. Salvation is promised in the next life for living a godly life, as St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “fear of hell and love for God’s kingdom enable us patiently to accept affliction; and this they do, not by themselves, but through Him who knows our thoughts.”
However, salvation can also be attained in this life when we are transformed into godly people, adopted sons of our Father in Heaven. Luke reminds us, “once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ’The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”
St Mark continues, “Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of his incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’, do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.” […]
We should always search our heart for upright and humble motives. St Mark the Ascetic warns that “some, without keeping the commandments, think they are keeping the faith, while others, keeping the commandments, expect to receive the kingdom as a reward owed to them. Both are deprived of the kingdom.” Our reward lies in our humble obedience, our salvation is our striving to live a more godly life.
Salvation is not a transaction, salvation is not bartering, salvation is a gift by grace, unearned. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when the Scriptures say, ‘God will reward each person according to his works,’ the Scriptures are not saying that works deserve hell or the kingdom, but rather that works are done out of faith or lack of faith in Him. Christ repays each person not as a businessman fulfilling his contracts but as God, our Creator and Redeemer,” out of love for us, not out of bartered obligations. […]