Citizens of Heaven

“Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.”
~Pope Francis, Daily Homily, September 16, 2013

In the summer of 2015, our youth group went on a mission trip to Philadelphia, PA. In true Nicolas Cage fashion, we were able to immerse ourselves in our nation’s history with zest and vigor. One of the favorite things our students were able to experience was Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed) and the Liberty Bell. Many of our students were surprised to see the verse from Leviticus 25:10 engraved on the Liberty Bell. Growing up in a culture where public displays of faith have become increasingly difficult, they were impressed to see how outwardly expressive our founding fathers (and mothers) were about their faith. I can’t help but go back to this moment as I reflect on today’s increasingly tense political climate.

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It’s fitting that Leviticus 25 speaks of the “Jubilee Year” since we are entering into the final month of our church’s “Jubilee Year of Mercy.” This year has been a time in which we have been called by Pope Francis to reflect on how God has shown us mercy and how we are to be visible signs of God’s mercy in our world—and don’t forget the year is not yet over. Verse 10 says, “You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family.” In biblical times, this return of property is speaking of the forgiveness of debts. Deuteronomy 15:2 explains the Jubilee further by saying, “Creditors shall remit all claims on loans made to a neighbor, not pressing the neighbor, one who is kin, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed.” Think of the debts you have in your life. Imagine if all debts were forgiven—no more mortgage, no more school loans, no more credit card debt, no more guilt, all is forgiven. What would it feel like to be set free from those earthly things holding you or your loved ones (your kin) back? But who is our kin?

In the New Testament, we are called into one family in Christ. As the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “…God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts… So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4:6-7) If we believe in this theology, then we are called to show this mercy to our entire spiritual family—not just our earthly loved ones, but also those whom we may dislike or hate.

In this political season, I’ve seen good people show judgment and anger towards friends and family simply because they had difference of opinion. Oftentimes, we see or hear responses from one side that have nothing to do with the issues the other side is pointing out. We are living in a time where people are quicker to speak than to listen. As Christians, we are called to live counter-culturally within the culture; to live in the light. (Eph 5) For us, that means to strive to be examples of Christ’s light to others at all times.

Luckily for all of us, much like the Church, our nation does not solely rely on the leadership of a hierarchy. Each citizen has the responsibility to be informed, to bring wisdom from personal experience, and to make a greater impact on society. However, in order for us to function properly as a church and as a nation, we must recognize that it is our diversity that makes us strong. As we prepare our hearts to vote this week, let us strive to be examples of mutual respect and dignity for others—recognizing that as we prayed in our Stewardship Prayer last month, everything that we are and everything that we have belongs to God. This includes God’s mercy, which we have all already received. Our debts have already been forgiven. I pray that in this time of great importance for our nation, our church can be a model of faith in the secular world as our founding fathers (and mothers) were. Remembering always that we are first citizens of heaven through Christ. (Phil 3:20) As together we pray, “…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” (Matt 6:12)

Patrick Smalley
Director, Gr. 6-12 Faith Formation & Young Adult Ministry

Read “Casting a Principled, Informed Vote” from the Roman Catholic bishops of Minnesota.