Monday, December 18, 2017

The "Politics" of a Living Relationship with God

Frustration with those who wear crowns mustn't discourage us
Politics. It's complicated. I have basic convictions about what it means to entrust people with responsibility for the common good, and I have ideas about various persons and issues.

More often, my ideas are inadequate or unrealistic. But like many others I have a strong sense that things could (and should) be better than they are now.

Above all, I always feel that I have to step back and remember the humanity of people.

I don't want to forget that everyone in this scrum that is our belligerent society has the dignity of being a human person made in the image of God and loved by God.

It's normal to feel angry, repulsed, and disgusted because of the way some of our political leaders and other influential people behave in our society, and to seek justice and look for people more worthy of these responsibilities. Though the urgency of all this stuff may seem more acute these days, there is nothing essentially new about it. This is an ongoing human drama, and problems sometimes get addressed, but even then there remains a residual dissatisfaction. We want the world to be a better place. We want things to change, and the world's resistence to change makes us angry.

What does this mean for our particular lives? These emotions are normal and human, but acknowledging their legitimacy is only the beginning. When we are thus moved, we must do more that simply react. How can we govern these forceful emotions and integrate them into a constructive response that takes into account all the factors and the persons in front of us?

This task calls for a kind of inner discipline that we can only cultivate in a living relationship with Jesus, in the Church. Growing in this way is more "politically" significant than anything else, in my opinion.

This will lead us to develop a habit of mind and heart, a supernatural "common sense" that can help us make judgments about life as a whole, which is ordered to eternal life, and thus also about the manner in which we engage the issues, the injustices, the possibilities, and the limitations of our current political and social situation.

As Christians, our concern for the good in this world is rooted in our living relationship with Jesus Christ.

It does not follow, however, that we should form ourselves into a Christian political party, or make explicit, self-conscious confession of faith into a partisan political ideology.

We live at present in a society where people are in very different places in their journey toward the Mystery for whom they have been created. Certainly there are plenty of people who are bent upon moving in the wrong direction, and others who are misdirected and confused for various reasons about where they are going.

There are also those who live mysteriously within an actual relationship with Christ while not realizing it because of misconceptions and psychological blocks or limits or whatever. Or they recognize it "in part," while also to some extent struggling with it, fleeing from it, or circling around it tendentiously. Christians can also be (and in fact are) in various complex positions in their concrete life, which entail the whole range of human sins.

We are all struggling together on this journey to our ultimate destiny.

In any case, Jesus has made it clear that God wants a relationship with every person, and we can be sure that each person is profoundly engaged in countless mysterious ways at the depth of their life by the One who loves them.

God's grace is always working in people's hearts, and as Christians we want to be wherever that work is, to build human community from there.

I don't know a whole lot about "how" this turns into a big idea for changing the world. But while we must take up this work, we must also resist a kind of utopian expectation that inevitably leads to frustration, discouragement, and cynicism.

We have to apply the "good sense" that develops within our relationship with Christ, the relationship that gives us a concrete awareness of the ultimate purpose of life, and the ultimate reason for our belonging to others as children of God, brothers and sisters.

In this light, we look at the circumstances of life and work hard with what has been entrusted to us. We can only do our best for the day, try to learn, repent for our sins and endeavor to forgive and be forgiven, and then be at peace.

This is a much more heroic challenge that it may at first appear. In fact, we cannot live like this in the world unless our relationship with the Lord continues to be nourished and to grow. We cannot turn ourselves into perfect people or build a perfect community or construct the perfect "program" for social life according to our own design.

Rather we must turn our desire, for every aspect of life, toward the wisdom and love of God. In the midst of the limits of this life, we must pray, we must turn our work into prayer, all our hopes into prayer, and even our politics into prayer.

The Lord will answer that prayer in His own ways and time, and thus we really do change. The point is not that we become self-sufficient, as if in the end we might be able to "leave God behind" once we have become "more right" in our views or "more rigorous" in the control of our behavior.

Rather, the relationship with God grows deeper, and within those depths our lives become more real, more free; we become truly happier, more profoundly human, more like Christ.

THIS is what will change the world.