We’re closely scrutinizing political candidates these days in preparation for the upcoming election, and rightly so. They will make important decisions so, as election season wears on, we find ourselves saying with greater clarity, frequency and vehemence: “Here’s what’s wrong with this candidate!”
What if we push the pause button on analysis of the body politic for a moment, and turn that same spirit of scrutiny toward our lives in the body of Christ?
St. Paul gives us ample reason to do so this week in his letter to the Ephesians. The great theme of the week is how Christ draws us into unity with Himself — so much so that we become one body and one person with Him.
The Church’s theological tradition has brought great nuance to this idea, specifying that we become part of the mystical body of Christ, and therefore one mystical person with Him, not one physical body and one physical person (Catechism of the Catholic Church 795). Still, the nuance sharpens our sense of the meaning of this unity with Christ, not blunt the force of it. So, as closely as we examine the positions, attitudes and habits of our political candidates, we need to look even more closely at the positions, attitudes and habits of our lives, and how they promote or stand in the way of our unity with Christ.
One way to do so is to turn outward. St. John Paul II, whose feast day is Oct. 22, once said that none of our virtues and none of our sins is a private affair. We are part of a communion either of saints whereby we lift each other up, or of sin whereby we drag each other down. What would happen if we projected our virtues and faults outward to 7 billion people — would we like the result? That will give us a good idea of what we need to strengthen and what we need to overcome to grow in unity with Christ.
Another way to do so is to turn inward. Scripture tells us that Christ is the cornerstone of the temple which is His mystical body. In ancient buildings, the cornerstone was used to line everything up. So we can look at Christ, then look at ourselves, and ask: Which of my attitudes, actions and habits doesn’t square with Christ? That’s what we need to adjust, to become more aligned with Him.
Let me invite you to perform an experiment. Ignore all political news and commentary for a month. Not because it isn’t important. It is, in its own way. But it tends to draw us into giving a disproportionate amount of our time and energy to things over which we have very little influence (the behavior of others elsewhere), leaving less time and energy for the things right in front of us, over which we could have much more influence (our own behavior here and now).
Elections are important. But we can’t make false messiahs of political candidates. The truth is that Washington, D.C., and Jefferson City aren’t going to solve our deepest problems. Only Christ can do that. Let’s make sure we put the majority of our time and energy where it matters most — scrutinizing what promotes or gets in the way of our union with Him.