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New legislative session opportunity to be more politically active

Jesus never said, “Thy Legislature come!” But even if he never said these words, we know that he calls us to anticipate the advent of many things (as we did with Christmas), including the advent of a new legislative session.

Every year, the Nebraska Legislature commences its lawmaking duties on the Wednesday following the first Monday of January. This year that falls on Jan. 9. Because 2019 is an odd-numbered year, the legislature will be convening the first of a two-year period. As you may recall, odd-numbered years consist of a 90-day session, while even-numbered years consist of a 60-day session. The legislature meets longer in the odd-numbered years to fulfill its constitutional obligation to pass a statewide, balanced budget.

Notably, the 2019 legislative session also marks the beginning of Nebraska’s 106th Legislature. As we anticipate this year’s session, I want to provide some practical advice to prepare you for it. I’ll do this in two parts, so you’ll have to patiently await the second installment. But this first part should provide plenty for your interior reflection.

DO NOT BE AFRAID

St. Pope John Paul II often reiterated words of holy Scripture. Among his favorites, he regularly admonished us not to be afraid (Dt 31:8). John Paul II repeated these words so often because he was intimately familiar with human nature and our tendency to be governed by fear. 

But he knew that Christ did not come for us to live in fear; he came for us to live authentic freedom on our path toward heaven.

Despite Christ’s call to freedom, I often witness in the lives of Catholics – including my own – the tendency to be ruled by fear when it comes to engaging the legislative process. People fear they don’t know enough about politics. They fear they don’t know enough about policy. They fear their state senator is too important or too busy to talk to them. They fear that they are just one person, and that’s not enough to make a difference. So on and so forth. The list of fears is endless.

And while many of these fears seem reasonable – maybe we actually aren’t all that knowledgeable about politics or policy – they aren’t good enough to avoid getting involved in the legislative process. At best, they are tricks our human nature plays on us to make us avoid looking foolish, in an attempt to preserve our pride. At worst, they are snares of the Evil One, who will do anything to inhibit us from transforming the temporal-political order as Christ has called us to do.

TAKE IT FROM JOHN PAUL II

It seems only reasonable to assume that when John Paul II was elected pope, a number of fears entered his heart and mind. After all, he knew his own limitations, failures and sins. Yet he found courage within his own heart to respond with a “Yes!” to serve Christ as his vicar on earth. As well, he never tired of calling others to take heart and have courage in their everyday tasks of life. In that vein, I leave you with these words he offered at his inaugural Mass as pope. May they inspire and encourage you to become more politically active!

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.”

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.

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