Earlier this week I drove downtown to the medical clinic for my annual physical exam. And to consolidate my errands I made a few stops on my way back home. First, a deposit at the credit union. Then I dashed to the library to pick up some books on reserve. After that I made my way through the downtown farmers market to replenish my supply of produce. Next, as I approached the gas station on my way back home, I decided to fill up because gas prices are on another rapid rise. Better now than next week, no doubt. Finally, I stopped at the post office to mail a week’s worth of packages.
Life gets busy. But I did find the time, nonetheless, to pay my annual auto insurance premium.
Now as I look at my calendar for the coming week, I see that on Friday I will be joining others for a bus ride to the state capitol for a daylong Advocacy for Life rally.
On the surface it looks like I am really busy. Aren’t we all? But what I notice more deeply is that my day-to-day life is woven into the life of institutions, dependent on the life of institutions, for better or for worse. Do I like paying the ever-increasing cost of the privilege of driving my own automobile? No, but I cannot imagine, unfortunately, living my life and running my business without one. Is it important to me to support my local farmers market, or to deepen my knowledge through the resources of my local library, or to spend a day advocating as a citizen and person of faith for life issues? Absolutely.
Politics is personal, the saying goes. And it is precisely this “personal” dimension of our lives as social beings that impels us to pay attention to who we are and how we act. As baptized men and women our lives are intertwined with institutions whose reach extends far beyond us and whose interests, practices, and beliefs may or may not intersect with our own.
By “political” I do not mean “partisan.” Partisan refers, often unhelpfully, to vested self-interest, to us against them, to division which loses sight of the unifying challenge and invitation to a forge a better way—what Christians might call a reign-of-God way.
By “political” I mean this: Living and acting as though institutions matter. Social beings that we are, institutions are the ways we organize ourselves to achieve better outcomes. The Church itself is an institution, entrusted to us as a means of grace and purpose as we navigate through the web of other institutions. The Church, in essence, is our gift to society, too, so that we can, in Catholic Worker cofounder Peter Maurin’s words, create a world where it is easier for people to be good.
The political dimension of vocation, of God’s particular and loving calling of each of us, now becomes clear. The Gospel and the tenets of our faith are the necessary lens through which we view the institutions, organizations, initiatives, and movements that shape us into “the body politic.” As men and women of faith we do not have to do this work alone. We do not have to invent a way to make our world holy.
The political is vocational indeed. By our baptism into Christ himself we share intimately in his mission: to enable every person to encounter him, and to heal and transform society’s cultures and structures so that they can foster all that is truly human and thus fulfill God’s plan for humankind.
Growing into vocational adulthood demands our full and graced engagement in this world, in this time. The vocational truth is that you and I have been anointed in the Holy Spirit to be the living presence of the risen Lord now. That’s our calling, and the world is waiting for us to take it seriously.
Copyright 2013 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.