Friday, August 29th, 2008
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem-a place hostile to prophets-and announces his immanent suffering and death. When studied with the weekend’s other readings, this passage turns our attention to the price that must often be paid for witnessing to truth and justice. Christ calls it “the cross.”
My guest on today’s show hit upon this theme in light of this week’s controversy surrounding Speaker Pelosi. Fr. Dominic Legge, OP, professor of theology at Providence College, helps us to make a clear distinction between Christian discipleship and political expediency.
Listen and enjoy!
A man for all (political) seasons
Today is the second of two feasts celebrated each year in honor of St. John the Baptist. On June 24, the Church celebrates his birth. On August 29, we commemorate his death.
In any political season, it is important to remember the events surrounding John’s martyrdom. As the Gospels record, John died at the dangerous intersection of morality and lust-drunken power. Even in the best of circumstances, the crossroads of natural law and political will remain difficult to navigate successfully.
Conclusions regarding the specifics of the natural law may differ, but in principle the precepts of the natural law are not subject to democratic political debate. In other words, the laws regarding human life and marriage, just to name a couple of natural law issues, do not emerge from anyone’s political will. They are the precepts of a higher authority, whose will we discern through physical and metaphysical studies of creation, on the one hand, and revelation, on the other. Because the natural law does not originate in the political realm, it follows that its precepts cannot be changed by any political majority. It lies outside of anyone’s competency to adjust the order of creation. Therefore, today’s debates as to whether abortion is murder, whether euthanasia is murder, or whether a same-sex union can be a marriage make little sense. These are not realities subject to political opinion or prudence. To the contrary, the natural law stands as the political will’s standard and judge.
When the political realm begins to exceed its bounds and legislate outside of its competency, prophets appear on the secular and religious stage to remind leaders of the true nature and origin of human rights. St. John the Baptist is a prime example. His was not a political tiff with Herod and Herodias. His critique centered not on their tax policy or the kingdom’s relations with Egypt. His words to the royal couple were much simpler, words that everyone regardless of political stature can understand: “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” That’s not a political statement. It’s a human one. And John paid a human price for it.
God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death. As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.