Saturday, November 19, 2016
After a long slog through the Four Last Things, it is time to rejoice in the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end: Jesus Christ, who is King of Heaven and Earth.
When we look at the powers that contend for our affections and attentions in this world, we can become quite alarmed. After the appalling display that accompanied our recent elections, I lack much hope for those who govern us even in this most remarkable of nations. Human frailty and original sin seem to be the sole constant. Comparing ours to the situations of most of the rest of the world can make us feel only somewhat better. But we ought not despair.
It is not my proximity to the marbled halls of power and shining domes of sovereignty that give me courage. It is a chair I have in the corner of our church, in a little room, behind a curtain. There, regularly, I hear speeches of those who come before the King. They seek for themselves not power or approval, but mercy. Aware of their sins, with sorrow for their shortcomings, they come in humility and supplication.
In their hope for forgiveness, I see reflected the glory of the one true sovereign. They approach His throne neither with fear, nor with flattery. They know their Lord, and they know He is stronger than sin, stronger even than death, for He has already achieved the victory over both. They know he possesses full power over heaven and earth, and lays it all down in sacrifice for them, that they may have life, and have a share in that glory. That is real leadership for our lives; that is our one hope for real change. It is the mercy of our King.
While citizenship in this fair Republic showers many gifts upon us along with its challenges, we gladly kneel before our true King. Let us thank God that in this land of red versus blue, we have the gift that is greater than gold: the freely given life of our Lord, who reigns from the Cross. In loyalty to Him, let us lay down our pride and power and acclaim Him by our repentance for our sins, and our sacrifices of love.
This is all He desires from us, that we acknowledge our need for His mercy, and turn toward Him and away from sin. We learn from Him not to grasp at power and might, but to seek mercy, and offer it. To rule with Him is to serve in charity. This is the stuff of the Kingdom that will endure forever, the path to our sharing in the reign of Him who is Lord of all.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments. (from the Letter to Diognetus (from Mathetes) 2nd Century AD)
For we offer prayer for the safety of our princes to the eternal, the true, the living God, whose favour, beyond all others, they must themselves desire. They know from whom they have obtained their power; they know, as they are men, from whom they have received life itself; they are convinced that He is God alone, on whose power alone they are entirely dependent, to whom they are second, after whom they occupy the highest places… For he himself is His to whom heaven and every creature appertains. He gets his sceptre where he first got his humanity; his power where he got the breath of life. …Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Cæsar, an emperor would wish. These things I cannot ask from any but the God from whom I know I shall obtain them, both because He alone bestows them and because I have claims upon Him for their gift, as being a servant of His, rendering homage to Him alone, persecuted for His doctrine, offering to Him, at His own requirement, that costly and noble sacrifice of prayer… (Tertullian: Apologeticus pro Christianis, XXX, AD 197)
There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth—in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes—is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome’s duration. (Tertullian: Apologeticus pro Christianis, XXXII, AD 197)
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
Saturday, November 05, 2016
What can I say? This week I think I – we, the country, you, and I – face the most appalling dilemma posed our young nation’s citizenry. There is no good option; there is no happy ending. In that regard, this is the election least obscured by illusion in modern memory.
We are all obliged to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – and thus it is no refuge to flee our responsibility and blood-won privilege of voting. Civic virtue is a Christian virtue, as long as we fulfill it in a Christian and virtuous way. And while you know I have in past election years exhorted you, both then and now I eschew politics and political speech. I am not a politician, and not a political leader. I have no political authority, and little insight. I have not, cannot, and will not speak to you of politics. But I have, must, and will speak to you of Jesus Christ.
Therefore for your consolation and encouragement, I remind and entreat you to let your vote be first and foremost a moral act, taken with an eye toward your identity in the sight of God. Unlike the political ramifications and result of our action, our moral obligation and the criteria by which to judge it are clearly knowable, and in fact known.
No political act or situation, past or present, can transform an immoral act into a moral one. No dire consequence, perceived, real, or threatened, can justify our abandoning the Way revealed to us by God in Christ. Good intentions do not mitigate; no promise or possibility of future good fruit from some process, program, or policy will absolve us of complicity if we endorse or even ignore its intrinsic evil.
For the wedding at Cana, Jesus made very good wine, and much, out of water, an intrinsic and universal good, not out of poison. Shun poisonous policies and those who advance them, and God will bring good out of your act. Endorse the poison, or even accept the poison as “a price to be paid” or “compromise”, and there is nothing there for God to work with until you offer Him heartfelt repentance.
No good can come from the extermination of an innocent life to accommodate the wishes of another. No good can come from the dismemberment of the nurturing organism that is the foundation of all human society, temporal and eternal: the family. No good can come from imposing immoral imperatives or otherwise obstructing the life of faith.
Many a destructive, malevolent, or illegitimate political order has crashed to splinters against the rock of fidelity to Christ Jesus nurtured in His Body the Church. Hatred of the Church has been a common characteristic among all the totalitarian and inhuman regimes of every political stripe over the past two millennia. No human institution is as strong as the divine institution that is the Church, and she will survive even as they crumble under their own unbearable weight. You and I will survive too, only if we cling to her.
As far as how to exercise civic responsibility this week, I can only point out the lethal traps for everyone to avoid. Love God, and love His commandments, and let the politics work itself out. All things work to the good of those who love God. (Rom. 8:28) Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.