Reflections for Lent/Reflections for Easter
by Christopher Dodson
North Dakota Catholic Conference
"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Ephesians 5:14
Some people hold political views with the type of unwavering resolution we might expect people to give religious beliefs. Most of us know someone who feels, for example, that his or her political party can do no wrong.
Certain political positions, of course, do reflect absolute truths. However, there is still good reason to consider contrary viewpoints and to reexamine our own positions. It is only by continual self-examination that we know whether our actions and views continue to conform to those truths. This is particularly important because the development of public policy involves trying different methods. Sometimes those methods can unintentionally move us away from our original purpose.
Christians are on a life pilgrimage, a journey to follow Christ in all things. Prayer and sacraments – especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation – aid us in that journey. Engaging in self-examination and engaging in constant conversion is part of being a Christian. This call to reflection, examination, and renewal applies to our political views and actions.
Failure to honestly reflect and examine can lead to stubbornness. Those people who make their views publicly known are particularly susceptible to this temptation. After all, it is hard to consider new ideas or admit mistakes when our original positions were very public.
The danger for most people, though, is not stubbornness, but complacency. Our political views can become settled, unchallenged, unconsidered, asleep in a kind of dormancy until election day – if they are awakened at all. Complacency may come about from the mistaken belief that someone else will take care of civil matters or that engagement in public affairs is not necessary. In truth, everyone has an obligation to help build a just society.
Who will hold us accountable for our complacency? God will. Our entire life is accountable to God, including our political opinions and actions – and lack thereof. Soren Kierkegaard put it this way:
“So little by little it becomes for the individual a serious truth that to live is to be examined, and the highest examination is this: whether one will be in truth a Christian or not.”
Reflections for Easter
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:14
Those who work for social justice in accordance with the Church’s teaching struggle to set “things right” or make them “as they should be.”
We do this because we believe in the human dignity of all persons, that human life is sacred, and that society should be reconciled in justice and love. We believe all this because human beings are made in the image of God, God became man in Jesus Christ, and his death and resurrection makes all things anew, reconciled.
If Christ had not been raised, all our efforts would be in vain. Even if we accepted a philosophical notion of human dignity, even if we loved others and wanted peace, our efforts would be in vain if Christ did not rise from the dead. If he did not rise, death won. If death won, we would be left with our sins and our ultimately inadequate human efforts to make things right.
Like others involved in the making of public policy, those working for social justice in accordance with the Church’s social doctrine have setbacks, small victories, evoke anger and misunderstanding, and make mistakes. However, because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that our efforts are not in vain. We have hope. We know that Christ has conquered death and made all things right.
Whenever lawmakers give a low priority to the needs of the poor, whenever peace is not pursued, whenever politicians find excuses to not protect the unborn, whenever the rights of families, communities, and persons are ignored, and whenever efficiency trumps the common good, we have hope.
We struggle to work out the methods for getting there, but our struggle is not for an uncertain reason or an unknown end. Because Christ has risen, we know how the story ends. As the U2 song states: “The real battle just begun, to claim the victory Jesus won.”