What could be more dispiriting than our current news cycle? The world is preoccupied by several wars. Churches are being bombed on one side of the planet, while bishops disappear into prison on the other.
Meanwhile, in the United States, we are heading into a presidential-election year. Political partisans and activists have already worked themselves into a frenzy, and their rhetoric will soon get nastier. Ordinary people — good people — destroy friendships and family bonds in their righteous indignation.
If you detect these symptoms in yourself, please seek help immediately. Go to the sacraments. Make a good confession. Receive holy Communion. Then repeat the process with the frequency prescribed by your confessor.
I say this because we’re approaching the great Feast of Christ the King (Sunday, Nov. 26, this year). This is the feast that keeps our focus where it belongs.
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22). The prophet gives us an infallible reason for confidence and peace. No storm should shake our inmost calm. We need not grow overanxious about the success or failure of our candidates or nominees. We need not even worry much over the scandals plaguing the Church.
We mustn’t place our trust in princes. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, which is ultimately the only kingdom that matters. We may witness injustice during our years on earth — and we should fight to right wrongs — but always in charity. Everyone we consider an enemy, an opponent, a rival, is a potential fellow citizen of the city of God.
It’s the habit of Christians to pray to the Lord, “Thy kingdom come!” We should be eager for the kingdom’s fullness, which will be manifest at the end of time. But we should not forget that we already possess the fullness whenever we go to Mass. Christ will not possess more glory at the end of time than he already possesses right now.
He comes to us even amidst our scandals and wars. If we keep our focus, we see that the Church is already glorious, because it is both earthly and heavenly. It is already the communion of saints, many in heaven, but many too who are here on earth, unknown to us. God is bringing his plan to completion, in spite of the world’s injustices and scandals, in spite of your sins and mine.
So let’s not look with hope to Washington. Our salvation won’t come from the White House or the Supreme Court, and certainly not from Congress. If we’ve been riding the political roller coaster — or even the roller coaster of ecclesiastical politics — then we should repent and take our place with the saints.
This doesn’t mean we cease to fight for justice. It does mean that we cease to make idols of our human institutions.
We can look ahead in hope.