An Election Day Reflection . . . . .

Homily — 31st Sunday Ordinary Time October 31, 2004

Christ before Pilate

Every week at Mass after the homily, we all stand and profess our Catholic Faith by saying the ancient Nicene Creed.

And every Sunday we say in that Creed the words “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.”

It’s interesting to note that the only three humans mentioned in the Creed are Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and a politician.

Politics and religion are touchy subjects to talk about. If you want to get into an argument with someone at a party, mention politics or religion, and the person throwing the party will get a bit nervous. Mix the two together and the hostess will quickly start saying “how about those Red Sox!”

But each Sunday, Christians throughout the world come to Church and mix politics with religion when they profess Jesus Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried” under orders from the state.

We Catholics believe that Jesus is God. And in the mystery of God’s Providence, nothing in Jesus’ life was accidental. Before He was born, Jesus planned to stand before the civil authority. Jesus our God deliberately chose to get mixed up in the world of politics, whether we like it or not.

Why did He do so? It would be good for us between now and Tuesday (Election Day) to reflect on the four Gospel accounts of Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate, or to watch the movie the Passion which does a great job depicting those accounts. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that every moral lesson can be learned from meditating on the Passion; I think one can learn everything about the right and wrong relations between Church and state from meditating on the Passion also.

One reason why Jesus wanted to stand before the civil leaders was so that we would realize that the Gospel, the Good News Jesus came to bring, was meant also for the political world. That not only individuals, but also the State was to repent and believe in the Good News. Wouldn’t it be great to hear Good News coming from the government for a change?

And there’s something Pilate said to Jesus that is so relevant to today, two days before a big election. As Jesus stood before him, crowned with thorns, bleeding from the government ordered scourges he had been unjustly given, Pilate said to Him Do you realize(, Jesus,) that I have the power to release you, and the power to crucify you?

And how true that is. The civil authority has the power to release, to help, Jesus — the power and the duty to give freedom and protection to the poor and oppressed. Whatsoever you do to the most insignificant of my brothers, you do unto me Jesus says. It is a power that comes from God, but God puts that power in the hands of world leaders.

But because of this, the state also has the power to crucify Jesus, it has the power if it chooses to wrongly oppress the poor, to unjustly deny fundamental rights to innocent human lives. God in no way approves of this abuse of power, but permits it because He respects our free will. And when the civil authority fails to protect the poor and innocent, it cannot wash its hands of guilt any more than Pilate really could.

My brothers and sisters, in our country today who is the “Pontius Pilate,” who is the civil authority Jesus stands before? It is you and me and every citizen eligible to vote. In this democratic society, we the people elect our government.

If we don’t bother to vote or to even register to vote we are in effect telling the enemies of Jesus to do what they want with Him. And if we vote only based on what’s in it for us, without thinking of how the person we are electing will help the poor and defenseless, we are also guilty of Christ’s suffering, death and burial in our society today.

So may we take the time if we haven’t done so already to carefully, prayerfully, and (as hard as it is, with all the spin) objectively examine the candidates running for political office, especially the higher offices, and then vote only for the ones who will do the greatest help and the least harm to Jesus the poor and innocent One.

You high school students who aren’t old enough to vote, it’s not too early for you also to start learning about the issues our country faces. And since it’s you who in the long run will inherit the legacy of whoever gets in, pray these next few days that holy and wise leaders will be elected.

May this Holy Eucharist we receive today help us all to be both faithful citizens of this world and nation, while at the same time faithful followers of Christ who will one day come again to judge all nations and bring his faithful ones to His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

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