Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
If the pollsters are telling us the truth about tomorrow's election, we might not know until later this week who will occupy the White House come Jan 2013. The country is so evenly divided politically that no pollster worth his paycheck will confidently predict a winner. Usually, this sort of secular divisiveness doesn't worry me. When hasn't politics been divisive? But it does worry me this time around. It worries me b/c the sharp divisions we see in our national politics have seeped into the Church as well. Catholics are split along ideological, partisan lines. That would fine if those struggles were merely political, that is, simply secular, out there in the world. But they're not. The divisiveness of secular politics has once again infected the Body of Christ and threatens our cherished unity. As the clock ticks toward Election Day, let Paul's words to the Philippians ring in your ears, “If there is any encouragement in Christ. . .any participation in the Spirit. . .complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.”
Paul is not suggesting—and neither am I—that Catholics ought to be politically homogenous when elections roll around. In fact, Paul isn't talking about secular politics at all. And neither am I. The Christians in Philippi are being admonished to keep their spiritual focus on the eternal; that is, Paul is exhorting them to grab hold of their hearts and minds, their ways of thinking, and drag them all back to the Way of Christ and keep them there. Whatever the Princes of this world were doing back then, whatever the politicians in Washington and Baton Rouge are doing this week, our joy, our peace, our hope is once and always firmly established upon the Word of God made flesh, the rock Christ Jesus; and our singular task is the godly mission of speaking that Word to the world in power and truth. Within the Body, we are of one heart, one mind, one Lord, one baptism, one faith—all moving together toward one end: the consummation of the Father's plan for our salvation at the end of the age, so that He will be all in all. Elections matter. For a little while, they matter. But no election, no politician, no political party, or partisan ideology can limit the mind of Christ or dominate those who have put on the mind of Christ to do his Father's will.
In the Church, in Philippi and Washington, DC and Baton Rouge and New Orleans, there is courage from Christ; there is solace from love; there is participation in the Spirit; and an abundance of compassion and mercy. And because courage, love, compassion, mercy, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit abound in the Church, we, as members of the Body, are ready to heed Paul's admonition, if we will: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory, rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves. . .” This is not what secular political theory tells us to do. We're instructed by pundits, politicians, professors to consider our “enlightened self-interest.” OK. Out there, in the world, consider self-interest. Then remember: you have put on the mind of Christ, so your self-interest is first and foremost the interest of the Gospel. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, giving to the world for its salvation and ours, One Body in Christ. One Body. Divisions mutilate the Body, tear at our unity of heart and mind. They have no place here. We are part of this world, but we are children of it. Our goal is not winning the White House for four years. Our goal is seeing the consummation of Christ's victory over sin and death. That's when we will find our peace._____________
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