March 11, 2018
Over centuries the idea that the Jews are ‘God’s chosen People’ has led to all kinds of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic sentiments and agitation. So much is this so that certain strains of ‘modern’ Judaism seek to downplay the notion of ‘choice’. Actually, the Scriptures are pretty clear that God’s election of Israel did not include a repudiation of the rest of the nations – the Gentiles. He chose Israel for a specific purpose: to make his Name known to the other peoples of the earth. Recall the blessing that Abraham’s family were destined to be.
This is important to bear in mind because, in the first reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, God reaches out to give a specific job to the Persian monarch, Cyrus.
This is not quite a ‘covenant’. But it is one way in which God works to fulfill his promises to Abraham and to Moses that they would live and grow and prosper in their own land – a land from which they had been exiled ‘because of their failure to keep their side of the earlier covenants’.
This could easily raise the perennial question: what is the proper interaction of church and state?
This is a question that could not have been asked two-hundred-fifty years ago. Cyrus and Caesar Montezuma and Henry VIII and Louis XIV and the founders of Plymouth Colony and every Ayatollah were all convinced that they were God’s agents in the shaping of human society. It is no secret that there are those who think that our present President is God’s choice to make America what the Plymouth Brethren thought it should be. Needless to say, there are folks who disagree.
Actually, the Catholic Church has a much more nuanced view of this matter. She talks about ‘church’ and ‘culture’; about the community that exists as a result of the historical events of life of Jesus and communities that exist because of historical events that brought that community to have a sense of its own identity that is different from all the other communities of the world. These cultural communities will have organized themselves in different government, judicial, political and religious ways. In both, herself and in these cultural groups, the Church recognizes a universal human longing for peaceful life together.
The Church makes her own the saying of the old poet: nothing human is alien to me, not because Terence said it, but because she believes that the Son of God, in his
Incarnation, lived it. Thus, the Church hopes to be able to offer to every human being, no matter his or her current political or cultural membership, a brighter hope, both for this world and the next.
Ironically, as the world gets smaller because of technology, identity politics and interest politics seem to be taking over. The desire to live together in peace seems to be taking the shape of living alone! Against this current movement in nation after nation, the Church proposes a universalism and an internationalism that are truly mutual and reciprocal.
A hope that is mine alone for me alone – whoever or however numerous the speaker – is not the hope offered by a God who wishes to be known to the nations.
Really and truly and a-politically yours,