Praying with the Pope in July
It’s sometimes said that the followers of Christ should stay out of politics; what they are meant to do instead, isn’t so clear. If “politics” means party politics, actively favouring one side of party over another, then Christ’s people should most certainly be engaged.
There is an important condition, though: justice, absolute concern for the poor in an unfair world and the greater universal good must be their watchwords, their guidelines, and if the party they favour has to be examined closely to ensure that these values are paramount. Now in our time Pope Francis has brought our attention to another essential dimension – that of our planet, our environment and our shared responsibility to guard and preserve it. That, too, is for the greater good of all, especially those who are weaker. We all know how some of the world’s poorest are the first to suffer from the effects of climate-change. And Jesus himself certainly didn’t keep out of politics; no, he was deeply engaged. We know how that brought joy and consolation to some but drew hatred and violence from others.
Pope Francis this month asks us to make political responsibility a priority. It is to be prayed about and lived. But, more than that, it is to be lived as a “high form of charity”. Have you thought of political responsibility in that sense? Let’s ponder this for a moment, and take this into our prayer.
First, our political engagement should be more than a hobby, an interest; it’s a responsibility: the Holy Father chooses that word carefully. We don’t have the option, as Christ’s people, of saying “I’m not interested in politics”. On the contrary, we have an obligation. It’s not just for activists.
Secondly, it is to be lived, at all levels, with charity – and that is charity in a high form. In May of this year, Pope Francis, preaching at the opening Mass of the Caritas internationalis congress in Rome, described our mission as “preparing the table for all”. Presenting this simple gesture, this beautiful image, the Pope encouraged us to be engaged, to live our responsibility at that high level of charity thus: “We ought to set the table for all, and ask that there be a table for all”. Politicians must know that responsibility. The followers of Christ must insist, not only that the table be set, but that all are invited to sit and eat.
The Holy Father invites us, his own worldwide prayer network, to put this intention near the top of our prayer-list for this month. Let’s do so, united with Christ’s own self-giving and empowered by the love of his heart. As the Trinity gazes on the world, in love but also in pain, we must ask ourselves: how am I, how are we being called by that Trinity to set that table for all? The high form of charity is nothing less than Christ’s own Eucharistic love, made real in this harsh world that longs to know it.
David Stewart SJ, National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer