Monday, January 30, 2017

We Need a "Revolution of the Heart"

It would be an understatement to say that many people have politics on their mind these days. The past week or so have seen various provocative gestures in the political arena, particularly here in the United States. We Christians have lots of ardent concerns about these issues, we often disagree on particular points, and-- like everyone else --we're not always sure we even know what's going on.

What can we do? Our particular responsibilities will vary depending on our proximity to the issues, our capabilities, our state of life with its demands, and various other factors.

In any case, we can't bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore the problems in our society.

Christian life is in the fullest sense human life, and therefore it is invested in the drama of human beings living together in community. It is important for Christians to take interest in politics. Depending on circumstances, possibilities, and needs, Christians are urged by their faith itself to get involved in political engagements, discussions, promotion of or opposition to policies and proposed legislation, rallies and protests, and movements for social reform.

Christians should be especially attentive to protecting and fostering the dignity of every human person, especially the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We should also be peacemakers, always seeking ways to prevent violence and encourage dialogue.

Even when it is necessary to stand firm for the truth and fight against certain political positions or attitudes, we must at the same time present our witness to the truth in love, seeking to understand others, listening to their opinions and concerns, and working to establish alternative possibilities for people in crisis situations.

We Christians know that concrete issues are interrelated because they are rooted in the basic features of the human drama and the human vocation. We must therefore attend to the broader context of the complex social problems that generate violence and the unjust structures of violence that become deeply rooted in culture and social consensus.

All of this emphasizes our responsibility to work for the good and to fight against evil in our society. We must work in a way that is balanced and prudent, just and courageous. It can be very intense, because as Christians we have a passion for humanity.

But it must be the work of love.

We must not allow ourselves to be "carried away" in a loss of focus or a kind of rage that robs our efforts of their constructive possibilities and descends into belligerence, manipulation, or cynical criticism. In these urgent affairs, it is all too easy to forget our faith, to forget love, to forget the foundation of our identity as Christians, to forget the One to whom we belong and the scope of the mission He has entrusted to us.

That is why I want to continue to reflect upon the essential role of prayer and sacrifice in our practice of politics. If we think these distinct realms have little to do with one another existentially, it is because we have a tendency to divide our real life into compartments and put boundaries around the awareness of our faith. It is always helpful, therefore, to remember the central importance of prayer and sacrifice in the Christian life as a whole.

Prayer and sacrifice are at the heart of who we are and everything we do.

It is understandable how politics today can appear all-absorbing. We live in tumultuous times. But as Christians we must always remember that what defines our life is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our eternal destiny which is to dwell with God. We must live this relationship first and above all: this relationship of love which, because it attains God Himself, encompasses the real depth of our relations with one another as brothers and sisters.

Our relationship with God in Jesus Christ has its own "language" -- prayer. And it grows by being conformed to the measure of Christ's love, which takes us beyond ourselves and leads us to surrender ourselves and all the circumstances of our lives to God. Thus we become gift, we become "outpouring of love beyond our own measure," we become "like God," we are "made holy" through this self-abandonment that we call sacrifice.

Prayer and sacrifice are at the core of our Christian existence. Here we begin to experience the peace that the world cannot give us, the peace of Jesus Christ which grounds us and gives us hope. Precisely because of this, they are also supremely practical for our vocation in this world. They open us up to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When this happens, we begin to take up our engagement with reality in a new way, according to the dynamic of self-giving love, of service, of the mercy that generates a more human environment, a real human community.

It begins with the heart, with my heart and with your heart. In the words of Dorothy Day:
"The greatest challenge is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us. When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the cross, then we can truly say, 'Now I have begun.'"