I. Politics. The term comes from the Greek words for “city” and “citizen.” Despite rich Catholic social teaching, we Catholics sometimes think we’re supposed to avoid politics. But the U.S. Bishops write,
Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions and concerns into public life… In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.
One rarely hears a child say, “When I grow up, I want to be a political activist.” I myself am agitation avoidant. And I’m shy. But in these critical times, I can hear Jesus and his courageous mother telling me firmly to just get over myself. Together with them, ministerial colleagues, faithful citizens, and immigrant parishioners provide me the support and encouragement to show up and stand up and speak up. Taking a prophetic stand on any of today’s sensitive political issues costs. There’s bound to be blowback. And so, it’s important that we have each other’s backs. Together, we must stand squarely on the side of the voiceless and powerless, the hungry and homeless, the immigrant, championing their agency and dignity.
II. Jesus tells us that we are the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” He’s not exhorting us to be salt and light: he is declaring us so. These are not commands, but commendations. The salt and light are already in us, always there. Jesus continually reminds us that we are something we don’t realize, with potential that hasn’t been activated, and a calling that hasn’t been heeded.
Isaiah’s words are likewise challenging and to the point. He says that it’s not good enough to give food to the poor, but to “share your bread with the hungry”: to sit down, perhaps, and share a table. It’s not good enough to give money to the poor, but to “shelter the oppressed and the homeless”: to welcome them to your home. It’s helpful here to understand “you” and “your” as “y’all” and “y’all’s.” Indeed, in the Gospel, Jesus doesn’t address the single “you,” but “all of you.” It’s a communal call to be in relationship with those on the margins. Imagine what we can do as a body.
III. Among the countless slogans in twelve-step programs, there’s one I should get tattooed somewhere. It says, “If you want to feel self-esteem, do something estimable.” Not something prestigious or acclaimed, but something worthy of esteem. You are salt and light. Do something.