I’ve always been a very political person. I love to debate. However, I have to admit, I’m currently getting very tired of being constantly being bombarded by politics all around me. I’ve turned much of it off, especially what I see on television and social media.
A friend of mine recently asked me why Pope Francis gave communion to Nancy Pelosi at the Vatican. I replied, “probably to not get involved in the politics.” Contrary to popular media, the Pope is not going to tell you what he says in personal conversations and we already know we cannot trust much of what our politicians have to say.
In discerning this further, my reflection led me to the Kings of Israel. In the time of Jesus, the Gospels tell us of Herod the Great, a “Roman client king of Judea.” This is the Herod responsible for the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. We also learn of his son, Herod Antipas, who lived from 20BC – 39 AD. This Herod was responsible for the murder of John the Baptist and allowed Jesus to be crucified to avoid threats to his throne. The Herods were not popular rulers. To the average Jew, they were illegitimate rulers who sold out to Caesar.
Yet, they were leading Jewish rulers of Jesus’ time. How often does the New Testament mention them? Not often. Jesus calls Antipas a “sly fox” in Luke 13:32. Theologians debate what he meant by this, but we can easily recognize it was not as harsh of a comment that most of us routinely make against those politicians we do not favor. To Jesus, the politicians of his day were not relevant to the Kingdom of God. In the Gospels, we read of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, but only in regard to their faith and hypocrisy being called out. Unlike in today’s world, Jesus still ate with them and did not scandalize them personally.
Fast forwarding to our world since 2000, consider the presidencies of Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden. Each in some regard were called “illegitimate,” just like the Herods. None of these politicians would have been mentioned much by Jesus. However, in His name and that of our own, we spend so much time on them and, while doing so, have lost our view of the Kingdom of God. At worst, their actions should solely point to our own! We need to be reminded that none of these men are truly relevant to the Kingdom of God. My attacks on these men will not be a path to heaven for me.
This summer much has been seen in response to the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. I was only 8-years old at the time the ruling came out. I didn’t know anything about abortion at that age and it was long before I gathered the courage to speak to girls anyway. I knew baseball cards. As much as it hurts me as a White Sox fan to say, I can still tell you the starting infield for the Cubs of that era: Santo, Kessinger, Beckert, Banks, Fergie pitching to Hundley and to no neglect my favorite, Billy Williams in left.
That was the world I grew up in. All these decades later, my poorly catechized generation has raised a generation “who did not know Joseph.” (Ex 1:8) As I saw the responses on television, I saw marches for the right to kill an innocent baby. I sadly watched and noted that these protesters probably don’t know Jesus, don’t know a personal “love” of God in their lives. Interestingly, my response was not political, but sadness. As a Church, we need to stop watching on the sidelines and complaining our “bishops are not in the game” while we ourselves sit idly by and continue to elect politicians who wear their faith on their bylines and not in their hearts.
We need to evangelize this generation and at the same time stop our old way of thinking. The days of “pounding” our youth with the Catechism and hoping it takes hold in them are gone. Rather, we must lead as our missionaries did and as Pope Francis does today in building relationships with Jesus, opening their hearts to a personal love of God and then in the Holy Spirit to lead them to the Catechism. We need to trust the work of the Holy Spirt and that the Spirit moves in regard to His time, not ours.
Let us realistically assess the situation as it is. We are back in a time similar to that of Isaiah. We are addressing a nation whose faith is being attacked on all “sides,” including from the “inside.” We are back in the same situation as Paul, who in Galatians was dealing with the Judaizers who were proclaiming the wrong faith. Jesus is again sending us out to do his ministry and we have so much work to do. Roe is a symptom of our failures, not an ending nor a victory.
Today, we need to again teach the love of God to our generations who missed out on this love and personal relationship. We need to have the courage to speak to our families, speak to our relationships and speak as we can in society. The mission today cannot be shouldered by the clergy alone. Our baptism called for us to be these missionaries. In most instances, our bishops, priests, and deacons are not at our dinner tables, not in our homes, not at our places of work. We are! We are called to be the “hands of Jesus.” It is a mission of all the faithful.
We have to be counter-cultural and take courage from the Gospel, all the while knowing that Jesus is telling us that some will not receive our message well. That’s okay. Our goal is simply to plant the seeds of faith, dust ourselves off and move on, while trusting in the continued work of the Spirit. All the while keeping our brothers and sisters in our prayers.
Relationship, then love, and then trust that the Catechism will come.
We are not going to convert with antagonism, but only with love. We need to help people see the love of God again in each of our lives. Our lives must send the message that loving our enemies is not diluting the faith. It is living our faith. We ourselves need to recommit to finding our strength in the Eucharist.
I believe the Holy Spirit can change the world. But to do this, God is calling us to do the heavy lifting. Are we willing to say “yes” to God in all its hardships and witness to life? Are we willing to preach the love of God – In our homes? In our families? In our society?
Saying “yes” to Jesus is a call to action, not complicity.