Hope in GodFATHER BRIAN MULLADY, OP
There are those who despair and have no hope when things do not go their way in the political order. This cannot be a Christian attitude.
Someone might think these words were written today in response to a decline in American society witnessed by the attempt to so centralize the government that the freedom of the Church is threatened. Yet these words were written by St. Cyprian, an early Church Father, around the year 250.
At the time, the Christians thought that the world was coming to an end as they knew it. Yet St. Cyprian, as all good Christians, was not moved to despair. This is because Christians realize that history in a sense has already come to an end. When Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the whole purpose for the world was realized: God was finally glorified in Jesus Christ.
The only thing left is to fill up the perfect number of those whom God has chosen to see him in the face through the action of Christ.
Once we realize that the final realization of the world cannot occur on this earth, then — though one must be involved in what happens here, as this is our pilgrim road to heaven — looking at time from eternity is the only thing that makes sense.
There are those who despair and have no hope when things do not go their way in the political order. This cannot be a Christian attitude. If it is true that our final fatherland is only in heaven, then each society here must be of concern to us — but the Christian cannot put his hope here. His hope is centered only in God.
After all, though Christ has redeemed the world, human beings still suffer from the weakness of ignorance, malice and lust that characterized original sin. People are still sadly motivated by the "desire to dominate," which is the origin of all lust and its final expression.
The corporal works of mercy, which have in some ways been abandoned by some Christians and left to the state or bureaucracies, are a marvelous way to strengthen the life of hope and grace for individuals and society. The Christian may also become more involved in the political process. This can be by studying the issues more to be a more responsible member of society or outright participation in holding office.
The Church has seemed to be asleep for a long time regarding the dangers to limiting the freedom of Catholics' religious practice. Fortunately, more and more Catholics are becoming alive to the real possibility of dictation by the state concerning our practice of religious freedom. This can and should alarm anyone who is serious about allowing his or her religious faith to influence his or her participation in the public square.
True, in a democracy or a democratic republic, the clergy should not have an active role in the political process as clergy. But, as citizens, each of us as Catholics must be aware that the kind of behavior that is necessary to preserve democracy is not necessarily the kind of behavior democracies like.
Freedom cannot be license. It must respect the inalienable rights of man, which must, for example, include life.
Just because Christians hope in God does not mean that they are freed from concern and action in the civil order. Still, in the final analysis, this hope is the only thing that can serve. During his life, St. Augustine was not only a bishop; he was also a civil magistrate. When he was dying, his city of Hippo was being besieged by the Vandals, particularly nasty barbarians who would eventually capture and destroy all he had worked for. On his deathbed, he insisted that the walls be covered with verses from the Psalms so he could think about God.
St. Augustine was not daunted by the fact that the world as he knew it was passing, for he had hope in heaven. This had guided all his actions on earth and now was his final consolation. As he said of heaven: "There we shall rest and see; see and love; love and praise. This is what shall be in the end without end" (Augustine, City of God, Book 22, c. 30).
This article is reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.
Fr. Brian Thomas Becket Mullady is the son of an Air Force officer and was raised throughout the United States. He entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in Oakland, California in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher and university professor. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Angelicum University in Rome, Italy and was professor there for six years. Father is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell CT. He preaches parish missions and retreats. Father has had numerous series on Mother Angelica's EWTN television network and is the author of three books: Man's Desire for God, Both a Servant and Free, and Light of the Nations.
Copyright © 2012 National Catholic Register
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.