Sunday, July 28, 2013


   Recently, a fellow theologian and I named a few of today's American prophets.  They included Jim Wallis of "Sojourners," TV's John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.  You can certainly think of others.

   Wallis fights Biblically on behalf of the poor, Stewart and Colbert use comedy and satire to point out the anti-spiritual behavior of our politicians and bankers, and Senator Warren is fighting for truth and justice in our capitalistic economy.  All four provide plenty of room for us to be 21st century prophetic expressions of Christ in our own way.  Our "audience" may not be as big as theirs but that doesn't matter.  We are called as prophets to engage in spiritual politics and economics with everyone me meet, every store or business we buy from, and everyone we vote for.

   Practicing spiritual politics and economics means elevating, humanizing, healing, and correcting today's society and culture in the way Jesus engaged in his society and culture.  And Jesus' way does not rule out getting angry in the face of injustice and self-serving distortions of our system.  Jesus did not shy away from getting angry when it was necessary.  The 23rd chapter of Matthew quotes Jesus' powerful prophetic engagement with the scribes and Pharisees, members of the powerful elite of his society. Among other things, Jesus calls them hypocrites and whitewashed tombs filled with dead men's bones.  And he upset the rich of his time by declaring to the oppressed poor that the Kingdom of God is theirs.

   Today we look at the behavior of our politicians and business people to see if they are responsibly using our capitalistic system to provide justice, peace, and prosperity for the entire population, with special emphasis on the poor, sick, vulnerable, and outcast.  Working for the common good within our political/economic system is a graced endeavor.  It is not communism.

   As Catholic citizens we have the spiritual right and responsibility to rise up in protest when our politicians and bankers favor the "powerful elite" instead of working for the whole country, and when legislators use their private religious views to obstruct such things as gay marriage and health care for all.  If they cannot legislate for the whole community, and if they cannot use caring reason and our American concept of freedom to justify their votes, then they shouldn't vote.  And we should rise up in protest against business and banking practices that maximize profits for the elite few and leave so many Americans unable to find jobs or unable to find jobs that provide sustainable incomes.

   Spiritual politics and economics also means criticizing our bishops when they try to impose their own religious, "powerful elite" views of morality on our American legal system.  They are commissioned by Christ not to impose but to attract and persuade our society and culture to rise up to a more luminously human way of living.  And they should include the faith discernment of the theologians and laity in making their moral judgments.  They can then use our faith to help all Americans elevate and clarify contemporary reasoning.  We believe that faith elevates and clarifies all human reason, so that clear, elevated, caring reason, and not anyone's religion, can and should be the basis for our country's laws.

   Most of us will not find the necessary spiritual formation for spiritual politics and economics in our parishes.  This sad fact makes our parishes another place for us to be prophetic.  In the meantime we can gather like-minded people together to study and to prayerfully help form ourselves into Christ-like prophets who can activate the spiritual politics and economics that God is calling us to today.  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.  



Tuesday, July 2, 2013


   To paraphrase St. Paul, "We live, no longer we, but Christ lives in us."  (Gal. 2:20)  This magnificent and challenging truth calls and empowers us to see as Christ would see and to act as Christ would act, here and now, throughout the world.

    The Spirit of Christ living within us is actually God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  "Christ" means the loving union of God and creation, the union of God and ourselves.  In the case of Jesus, God and Jesus were one person.  In our case, we are our own person and God lives within us.  So we are not Christ himself but expressions of Christ.

   After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his followers.  They saw him, spoke with him, touched him and ate with him.  Then he physically removed himself from the world. The Bible says he "ascended" into heaven. (Acts 1:9-11).  That's because at that time, people thought the world was flat and God lived in heaven up above the world.  Today we would say something like, "Jesus removed himself from space/time."
   Then Jesus sent us his Spirit.  In doing so, he elevated our lives to a new, evolutionary level.  He did not send us his limited, human, 1st century, male, Palestinian spirit; he sent us his unlimited, divine, global Spirit.  As a result, he could not be restricted to one area or one time period or one culture or one gender.  Instead, he could live in all areas, all times and cultures, and in all people, both male and female.  All are valid expressions of Christ in their own way.

   Christ is so global that we Catholics go so far as to say that all people who live in consistent good will and love are expressions of Christ.  That's because, without God's grace, i.e., without Christ's Spirit living within them, they could not live in consistent good will and love.  So today we can look around the world and see Christ being expressed in people of consistent good will and love, in all the various countries and ethnic traditions.  Also, Vatican II taught that the church of Christ extends beyond the borders of the Roman Catholic Church.  People of various faith traditions and even atheists (as Pope Francis recently pointed out) can, in our view, express Christ in their own way and be saved.   

   Our global view does not make us indifferent.  We don't say that all faiths are equal and it doesn't matter what faith tradition a person may, or may not, belong to.  While we respect all legitimate faith traditions, and people of no faith, we still believe that as Catholics we have the fullness of spiritual resources.  This still leaves room for people of other faiths and of no faith to live better spiritual lives than Catholics who do not take advantage of their own spiritual resources.

   The main point is to rejoice that Christ lives in people throughout the world, so we can reach out in peace and love and seek ways to work together to elevate and heal our world together.  The creative, healing, and world-transforming love that we share with all others is the surest sign that Christ lives within us.