In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul reminds the church that in the face of many who “conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ,” we are to remember that “our citizenship is in heaven” and the savior that we await is the Lord Jesus Christ.
During Pope Francis’ incredible apostolic visit to Mexico he made himself present to indigenous peoples, those in prison, workers and CEOs, and to all the suffering represented by the border between the U.S. and Mexico. On the trip home to Rome he made clear that when it comes to our local and national politics we ought to work in ways that build bridges and not walls between peoples.
If knowing our citizenship is in heaven prevents us from putting all our hope in earthly savior-figures, it also means that we cannot reject the real contours of earthly politics as they impinge upon our humanity, our life together, our common good. It is Jesus that will “change our lowly body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” We must walk forward – together! – carefully not to fall into the dual traps of idolatry and a rejection of material participation in life as the ‘political animals,’ as Pope Francis recalled Aristotle’s description of human beings.
Both the stories of Abraham’s promise and Peter’s tent-building in response to the Transfiguration remind us both of our need to trust in the revelation of God and our tendency to look for other assurances. As this election year heats up (pretty hot – and bizarre – already), we will have more opportunities for engagement around Faithful Citizenship. Let us fall neither into the trap of burying our heads in the sand (which not even ostriches actually do) nor placing all of our hopes in a candidate or party.
Instead, let us remember our primary loyalty is to the One of whom the Father said: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” May we weigh our responses to our politics, our communities, our neighbor – especially the most vulnerable in our midst – as disciples of Jesus the Living Lord.
–by Greg Walgenbach, Director of Life, Justice & Peace, Diocese of Orange