What is the surest way for a deacon or priest to get himself into trouble? By preaching about politics from the pulpit.
Whenever politics is the subject of a sermon most people will become offended or angered. Some people will take what is said as a condemnation of a certain politician or political party. Others will say that the preacher’s words were too strong while still others will claim that they were not strong enough. One or two people may even storm out of the church enraged that anyone would dare mix religion and politics.
In today’s society we have a tendency to want to separate politics and religion. We see religion as having to do with the after-life and politics with the here-and-now. Religion is private and politics is public. We do not want religious leaders to comment on public policy and we do not want politicians meddling in Church doctrine and discipline. We want to have a clear separation and even a towering wall between the two.
However, as with most issues in life, politics and religion are not always easy to keep apart. As followers of Christ, in particular, we are not only called to be saints in the Kingdom of God but good citizens of our country and of our planet. We bring our faith into everything we do - not only into our homes but into our communities as well. Faith for the Christian is never just a private matter. It touches upon every aspect of our lives including the choices we make as citizens of this great country.
Today’s readings help us reflect on why we are called as a Church to be involved in the political process of our country and how we are to do it.
First of all, our responsibility to stay in touch with current events, to vote our consciences and to lobby our politicians is founded on the commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves. In the public sphere, our love for neighbor displays itself most keenly in our support for the poor and the needy. As followers of Christ, it is our duty to stand up for the most underprivileged members of society. It is our vocation to give a voice to the voiceless. Though they are the ones who most need the support of government, their concerns too often go unheard because they lack the money and influence to lobby politicians. Many like the unborn, children and immigrants cannot even vote. It is up to us, then, to use whatever influence we have to make sure that their needs are heard and acted upon.
Why should we care for the poor? Because God does. Our first reading from the prophet Amos makes it very clear that God takes note of any injustice that is visited upon the poor. Because they have no one else to defend them, our Heavenly Father promises that He will stand up for them. God will judge harshly those who have failed to see justice done for the powerless. When we stand before Him, we want to be sure that we did all we could in this life to be on the side of the little ones whom He cares so much about.
Concern for the poor is not only good religion, it is also sound politics. Government should be on the side of the needy. Wealthy people can take care of themselves. It is the poor who need government to defend them against those who would exploit them. Also, as the saying goes, “Everyone does better when everyone does better.” When the hungry are fed, when the homeless have shelter, when the penniless get an education there is less crime, less disease and less restlessness in society. We all benefit when the common good is served.
Secondly, today’s gospel teaches us that we are all called to be faithful stewards of the good things God has given us. This refers not only to the way we manage wealth, but to our use of this planet. As a society we have become increasingly aware of how our lifestyle affects the environment. In particular, as Christians, we should have an even greater concern for the planet as God’s creation and for nature as the revelation of His goodness and providence. We should be at the forefront of efforts to reduce pollution and preserve nature for everyone’s enjoyment especially for the generations to come.
Our involvement in environmental conservation is particularly important in our world today. Too often, environmental activism is used as a cover for population control. In much of Asia and Africa, we see the distribution of contraceptives, forced sterilization and coerced abortions promoted as a way to reduce the population in the name of cleaning up the planet as if human beings are another form of pollution. As followers of Jesus committed to the belief that every person is made in the image and likeness of God we have an obligation to influence the environmental movement. We must promote the dignity of human beings who are also part of the environment rather than treat them as pollutants to be exterminated for the supposed good of the planet.
Finally, our second reading teaches us that we should pray for politicians and all those who have authority over us. We too often have a disdain for those who enter politics. However, we should be praying for them, asking God to guide their hearts to do justice for the poor and to preserve our planet. Their actions have a tremendous influence over our lives so we should be raising our hands daily to our Heavenly Father asking Him to give us women and men of courage, insight and virtue to lead us as a country and as a world to be more peaceful and more just.
Well, it seems that not too many of you have walked out on me today. I thank you for opening your mind and heart to this message which can too often be seen as too controversial for the pulpit. However, as followers of Christ, we are called to bring the good news of God’s love wherever we go including into the public square and the voting booth. In particular, we are called to announce God’s love for the poor and to preserve His creation for the good of all. Then God’s Kingdom will increasingly influence the earthly city making His peace and justice more of a reality in our world today.