Sir Thomas More: There is one question I would like to ask the witness. That’s a chain of office you’re wearing. May I see it? The Red Dragon. What’s this?
Judge: Sir Richard is appointed Attorney General for Wales.
Sir Thomas More: For Wales. Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for Wales.
The above is a scene from a quite amazing 1966 film called “A Man for All Seasons,” chronicling the conflict of Thomas More (Saint) and King Henry VIII of England’s rebellion against the Catholic Church. The court condemning Thomas More for not approving Henry’s adulterous marriage to Anne Boleyn. A man named Richard Rich (his real name) Solicitor General for Wales (later to be Lord Chancellor) has just given perjurious evidence to appease Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell who is intent on securing More’s demise. Richard Rich’s testimony achieves this goal.
I find it fascinating that Richard Rich or “Rich Rich” sold his soul for wealth, power and fame for the Red Dragon of Wales, and it is a red dragon in Revelation XII that seeks to devour the child.
This post, however, is not really about Richard Rich, Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, or even Thomas More. This post is about every person and how seemingly little we for which we tend to barter our souls.
It brings to mind the profound folly of William Ernest Henley who in brash and bold pen scribed an self-affirmation worthy of Satan himself:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
True this may be, for, after all, it is the essence of “free will” and therefore “fate” has no word. Strange that he fails to acknowledge, that although “Captain of his soul he may be,” it is, for Christians, the Christ that commands the winds and the sea. Henley, like Jonah, will be tossed upon the waves threatening not only his life, but the lives of those around him, and so it has been. How many have navigated the ship of their soul to eternal damnation under such banner and singing the shanty of the lost, “I did it my way!”
So what is the question? Perhaps it may be phrased, “Are the things of this world that you bought into, that came to define you, a wound or a choice?”
How many compromises have I made to “get by?” How many times have I prostituted my spirit thinking that awareness was enough to reduce culpability?, defer responsibility? How many time have I thought to my self, “I do this for the ‘greater good?'” “What have I become?” or more important, “What am I Lord?” More than dust only by the grace of your breath. . .more than ash only by the infusion of your spirit. What have I done to the image of you captured in me?
My greatest sin is “I.” My greatest transgression against you is “me.” My greatest rejection of your people is “mine.”
What if all I am is wound? What if I have become so accustomed to my disease that I am unaware of the depth of my illness?
Do I suffer from blindness?
Do I suffer from deafness?
Do I not see? Do I not hear?
No matter what I have achieved, no matter what I think I deserve, no matter how hard I’ve worked to get the things I have, if not living the will of God, I have bartered my soul.
The Devil said, “a nickel for your soul.”
The reply, “Yes, please.”
and the Devil demanded four cents change.
The great lie of the Protestant Tradition (yes, “tradition”), the great lie of the Devil’s economics is that hard work, that self-reliance, otherwise known as “rugged individualism (the essence of Capitalism)” is the pinnacle of freedom and responsibility.
Freedom is service to others.
Responsibility is obligation to others.
It seems that, if not one in the same, freedom and responsibility are so closely related as to be “identical twins.”
Catholics are a communal people, that know that Jesus is to be found amongst the poor and suffering, to encounter Jesus one must renounce personal ambition and a “______First” way of thinking, unless that “blank” that “hole,” that “emptiness” be filled by God and God alone. . . not our own labors and/or the things of this world, not “America First,” not “Family First,” not “Me First,”
“How may this be achieved?” one may ask:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:
Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
ENGLISH: Douay-Rheims American Edition Bible 1899
(C) Copyright 4 June 2021