I know I’m dating myself by admitting to having grown up in the tumultuous 1970s and ‘80s, a time of unrest marked by racial tensions, cultural and social divides, and fierce debate over the U.S. war in Vietnam. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? As we enter a new year, our country continues to wrestle with endemic racism; the gap between the über-rich, the alt-right, and the rest of us grows; and there is widespread anxiety over potential armed conflict with North Korea, Iran, and others.
When I was younger, I felt that political activism could change things and move us “in the right direction.” I guess like many people today I no longer feel this way, despite Pope Francis’ assertion during his 2015 visit to the Capitol that politics “is one of the highest forms of love because it is in the service of the common good.” The Holy Father urged our leaders to orient our nation’s politics toward the common good, along the lines of such Christian models as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Increasingly, I have come to believe that spiritual renewal and a “revolution of tenderness” ― again Francis’ words ― are our best hope. This was Dorothy Day’s conclusion after years of embracing Marxist ideology and class struggle as the path forward.
In a voter guide for the 2016 national election, a coalition of Catholic national organizations stated: “Jesus’s resurrection marked the end of Caesar’s way of doing things. In fact, with God’s love in Jesus, Rome is no more and a new community with new rules is established. In this community, hierarchies are subverted, concentrated power is decentralized, and prodigal children are welcomed home. In this new place of mercy, the last are first, the poor are blessed, and enemies are loved.”
This vision isn’t limited to an election year or to a Jubilee of Mercy such as we just observed. It is not escapism from reality but engagement in life and its challenges with a spiritual vision, that of the Gospel.
Here’s where the Eucharist enters in. National rituals may have lost much of their power to unite and to transform, but religious ritual has not. I have seen this over and over again in the course of my life and ministry: the exhilarating joy of baptism and the other rites of initiation, the healing encounter with the God of mercy in sacramental reconciliation, the reverence shown a loved one who has gone home to God, and especially the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup of Eucharist on so many occasions and in different settings.
It does not happen automatically, though. The Church’s rituals have endured through the ages and have the power to touch and to move, but they must be celebrated with respect for the mysteries they transmit. The mysteries of redemption and the reign of God transform lives and societies.
In This Issue
We hope that you enjoy this first issue of the new publishing year, Emmanuel’s 123rd. I want to thank you for your loyalty as readers and subscribers, as well as our authors and contributors. In a special way, thanks to Paul Bernier, SSS, John Barker, OFM, and Barbara Shanahan for writing our scripture reflections (Breaking the Word) for the coming year, and to Dianne Bergant, CSA, for her reflections last year and for setting up this special relationship with scholars and board members from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. A blessed 2018!
Anthony Schueller, SSS