Striving For The Politics Of God’s Promise
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
First Sunday in Advent
Between the visions of a prophet and the assumptions of a politician there can exist a chasm that few manage to bridge. “What can people do,” the prophet asks? “What will people do,” asks the politician?
“God works in people,” says the prophet, “He frees us from our fears. We can meet our potential. We can become the people God intends.”“People are just people,” responds the politician; “we look for security and prosperity. Life is short and dicey; we do what we must to survive. Beliefs and promises about God are fine but first life has to work – we have to live.”
The prophet and the politician: they struggled within our faith before it was Christian. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of the tension (Isaiah 7:1-18). Jesus’ and Peter’s relationship revealed the stress (Mk 8:33) that beset the first generations of the Church.
Scholars refer to the strain in the gospels between the already and the not yet when they discuss the Kingdom of God. On the one hand Jesus proclaimed that the reality of God’s promised new world was present in his own life (Lk 4:18-21). On the other hand, the gospels foretold persecution (Mk 13:11) and encouraged virtues necessary to endure the privations of living a life of loving-justice in a world not yet embracing God’s promise (Mt 5, 6 & 7).
This tension has always plagued the Church. It will continue to dog it until God’s peace fills our hearts and lands. Praying beside us are people who, by personality and experience are politicians as well as people who are prophets. And within each of us our own political and prophetic sides struggle. We have to acknowledge that they often accomplish no more than an awkward truce.
Yet, it is the challenge of faith to develop our own politics that embodies the prophesy of Jesus: the vision that the world will not stay as it is and God’s vision of peace with justice will become reality. We cannot allow that hope to fade, either for our own lives or for the world at large.