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Jesus’ radical Easter politics

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A few years ago, an article was published in Time magazine by Christopher Hale, who at the time was the executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the cofounder of Millennial. The title of the article was “Jesus’ Radical Easter Politics.” The full article is still available online at time.com/4271474/jesus-radical-easterpolitics/.

Certainly, the title of the article caught my attention, but the content of what Hale said was even more striking. His basic premise was that “Easter is about a call to rise up and proclaim a community that will outlive all kingdoms: a community where the poor are blessed, enemies are loved, strangers are welcomed, prisoners are set free and where death is no more.”

He goes on to point out that in Peter’s first sermon to the crowds after the resurrection, he announces that not only was Jesus raised from the dead, but that God has made him “Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). This is no ordinary claim, and, in fact, it flies in the face of the Roman assertion that Caesar was the Lord, not Jesus. Peter’s claim was no less than a claim of treason, and he eventually paid the price for it by being crucified in Rome.

In fact, there is a rather radical phrase at the end of John’s Gospel as well. When Jesus appears the second time to the Apostles after his resurrection, and Thomas is with them, Jesus shows him his wounds, and Thomas claims, “My Lord and My God.” In Latin this would have been “Dominus et Deus” – exactly the way that Caesar was supposed to be addressed. Thomas makes a claim that it is Jesus who is the Lord of his life, not Imperial Rome.

As we approach the feast and season of Easter, and a little later come up to the feast of Pentecost, the “birth of the Church,” it is good for us to remember how radical our belief is in Jesus as Lord. It is especially important, I think, as we find ourselves in the midst of what promises to be a contentious and vitriolic election year.

We should review what the U.S. bishops teach about “Faithful Citizenship.” More on that in a later column. But for now, it might serve us well to remember that we are to be Catholic Christians first, and democrats or republicans after. In fact, we should remember that we are Catholics first and Americans second. We are committed to using our faith to shape our politics, not the other way around.

That means that we must always put those values that Jesus commanded of us first: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, love our enemies, forgive those who trespass against us … in other words, to espouse the values of God’s Kingdom, and to work to see them as a part of our culture and laws.

This is nothing short of a “revolution” in the sense that it will take a definite “turning around” – it will mean establishing a Culture of Life over a culture of death, of seeing the face of Christ in all those who are vulnerable and on the margins of society.

As Christopher Hale points out, “To bring about this Easter revolution, Christians can’t begin with political parties and ideologies and coat them with Jesus messaging. Instead, we must start with Jesus: the tortured, crucified, murdered and then resurrected Lord who disrupts all earthly kingdoms and all political agendas.”

Let us all proclaim this Easter that “Jesus is Lord!” and live it in our politics as well as our churches.

Deacon Don Weigel is the diocesan director of Catholic Relief Services and can be reach ed at deacondon@gmail.com.

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