VENZOR: Christ the King of our hearts
November 19, 2020
Another election cycle has come and gone. While it’d be easy to simply move on from this moment, we must stop to ask ourselves: Where do I find myself in the midst of the all the turmoil, unrest and uncertainty about the future? What does it mean to be a faithful citizen at this point in our nation’s political history?
The great Solemnity of Christ the King that we celebrate at the liturgical year’s end affords us an excellent opportunity to answer these questions, among many others, about our political situation and our spiritual attitude and disposition of heart.
Naturally, in the aftermath of an election, our initial thoughts go to the question of who won and lost, and how that affects my life. This is an important, natural thought to have. As we consider the important role that newly elected officials will have on our life, we ought to consider the important function they play in building up the common good. Their task is no small responsibility, nor should it be taken lightly.
At the same time, as Christians, the Psalms remind us of a critical theme we should take to heart. Psalm 146 contains these words for our salvation: “Do not put your trust in princes, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth …. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!”
Regardless of who wins an election – whether it be at the presidency or the state legislature or the proverbial city dog catcher – we must always maintain a “spiritual distance” from what they may or may not bring to the practice of politics and building up of the common good, for none of them can perfectly bring about the justice and mercy that God alone can bring.
While we can demand that our new slate of elected officials “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” – as we hear from the prophet Micah – we must recognize their limitations as princes and princesses in this world. Our expectations of their possibilities must be limited by the mere fact of their humanity.
Instead, we turn our ultimate attention – our heart, mind and strength – to Christ, who is King of the Universe. He alone is Lord.
But what does his kingship have to say about our political attitudes in these tumultuous days? How will the desires of his Most Sacred Heart guide my politics when I am with family, friends and even, yes, political opponents? Will I serve him in justice and truth and rightly order everything about my political attitudes and positions to his Most Sacred Heart?
I want to offer a few practical considerations to these questions, though there is certainly more than this to ponder.
First, we must disavow the ways of the world. The world – especially the political world – is too easily mired in rancor, hatred and division. Thirty seconds on social media confirms this. But these movements are not of the Spirit of God. As Christians, we must rise above these circumstances and intervene with goodness, truth and beauty.
We must also reject any desire to exploit the vulnerabilities of others. There is a strong tendency to exploit a moment of weakness in our political opponents. When we see them down, we want to kick them down further – adding insult to injury. But this is not Christian discipleship. When Christ sees us in our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, he chooses the path of compassion. He takes on our condition and heals it.
Further, we must check the motives of our hearts by stopping to pray. Too often, under the normal circumstances of life, the base desires of our hearts can easily persuade us to act viciously. When situations get more tense and intense, it becomes easy to allow the corrupt elements of our hearts to control our actions. Prayer can check these actions and put a stop to them, and align our hearts with Christ’s Sacred Heart.
As we proceed at this decisive moment in our nation’s history, let us remember charity above all things, since without it we are just “noisy gongs” to use St. Paul’s phrasing – and, Lord knows, we already have enough noise in our politics.
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.