Last October, I deleted my Facebook account permanently. I watched with growing concern as friends and family spiraled out of control as their political beliefs took over everything. It is clear that politics has become a false idol for too many, including far too many Catholics. Hearts are hardening on both sides, which is never from Our Lord. The desire to divide us from one another and cancel each other comes from the Enemy. Christ came to heal our divisions and to lead us to the authentic communion and charity found in a relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.
The logical conclusion of this increasingly more radical politicization on both sides is the riots and violence spilling onto our streets and at our nation’s Capitol that we have seen over the course of the last few months. We live in dark days. The pandemic, political unrest, censorship, cancel culture, wokeness, fascism, cultural Marxism, and the desire to dominate through a will-to-power are tearing us apart. I had Catholic friends tell me that a bully in office is a good thing as long as he is “my” bully. Both sides are seeking worldly power above everything else and it is tearing us apart.
None of this is of Christ, and the fruits of it are on display across the nation. Five people died as the result of the Capitol riots. Countless businesses and people’s livelihoods have been burned or destroyed. More lives have been lost. We are letting the Enemy of our souls win. He is turning us away from Christ and one another. He is leading us to hate and vilify our neighbor.
We are called to be light bearers in the world. We are in the world, but we are not of it. We help transform and influence the political order, but we never allow it to consume us and take over every facet of our lives and our thoughts. Through social media, we have allowed political ideology into areas of our lives where it was never meant to be in the first place. For a lot of people, it is all consuming.
A free society means being able to live our lives in peace and freedom, so that all peoples have the opportunity to reach the beatitude we are all made for. We work for the common good through politics, but we do not fall for the lie that the answer to the world’s problems is primarily political. The answer is always first and foremost spiritual.
Christ came to die for us. He showed us that true power is through the Cross. He did not overthrow the Roman Empire. He did not seek political control. Many of the Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a revolutionary Messiah. Barabbas was a violent First Century Jewish revolutionary figure who wanted to overthrow the Roman Empire through force. This approach always satisfies the desire deep within our Fallen nature for power and control only to lose our soul in the process. Down through Church history Christians have also wanted Barrabas over Christ and that trend is growing today.
Our true Savior, Jesus Christ, underwent torture and crucifixion in order to completely upset the natural order. He showed us that radical non-violence and kenotic love united to God is what changes this fallen world. There are times when force is necessary, but what we are seeing now is not from a need for justice in the face of overwhelming evil. It is a desire for power and control in the political order driven by ideology, fear, and vilification.
What we forget in this life is—as my parochial vicar Fr. Anthony Ferguson put it in his homily this past weekend—“the Christian life often looks like losing.” The Cross is “folly” and a “stumbling block” from our worldly standards. The Apostles did not fully grasp the necessity of the Cross until after the Resurrection and the sending of the Paraclete. They still saw with the eyes of fallen men. They could not understand how crucifixion could be remotely close to a victory, but it was the ultimate victory.
It was the ultimate victory because it took violence, counter-violence, scapegoating, betrayal, hatred, ignorance, death, and all of human sin and transformed it through Divine Love. By the love shown to each one of us by Christ on the Cross, we are now called to not only tolerate our enemies and those whom we disagree with, but to love them as we love ourselves. To love them with the same love of Christ on the Cross through the life of grace we now share in.
Nothing has changed 2000 years later. Victory is still only won through the Cross, which means a complete surrender to God’s will over our own. It is an abandonment to Him. This includes trusting in His divine plan when our political goals fail or our side loses. It means rightly ordering the political life down the list of priorities in our lives where it is meant to belong well after God, family, friends, work, etc. It means loving our enemies or those who hate us whether they are Republican or Democrat or something else. More than anything, it means a serious commitment to growing in holiness so we can be light-bearers in this dark time.
Neither side in the current political battles should have a recourse to violence. Violence will only beget more violence. We are not even close to a just war scenario. There are times when we have to submit to God’s plans even when we do not understand them. When we know—as a good many of us do—that persecution in various forms is coming and that for some it has already started. We too often forget that Christ wins souls through the power of the Cross. Our persecution and our sufferings as Catholics “make up for what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings”, as St. Paul tells us. Our sufferings will gain souls for Christ.
This world is transformed through self-emptying love. It is through loving one another as Christ loves that we can begin to transform the world order, to the extent that is possible before the end of time. If we are casting off family, friends, co-workers, or even complete strangers because of our political beliefs, then we have abandoned Christ. If we have hatred in our hearts, then we need to be first in line at Confession at the next available opportunity. There is nothing—not even the great evil of abortion—that justifies hating our neighbor. We can only bring people to the truth through self-emptying love, not force.
Mary Immaculata, ora pro nobis.