On the Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20, the great Jubilee Year of Mercy will come to an end. In Rome, a friend tells me that there has been a little bit of concern about the end of the Year of Mercy. Typically, a jubilee year ends with the closing of the great holy doors at St. Peter’s Basilica. But there is some concern about a ceremony to “close the doors of mercy!” This is not exactly the message the Church wants to send! (Editor's Note: Read more about the holy doors at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.)
Although the Year of Mercy will come to an end, its message is that God’s mercy is inexhaustible, and never-ending. And because the Year of Mercy ends on the Solemnity of Christ the King, God’s Providence reminds us that the Lord, who is kind and merciful, is the sovereign Lord of our hearts, our lives, and the sovereign Lord of history.
We are living at an important juncture in history. Last week, the results of the presidential election were a surprise to many people. We have some reasons to hope that the incoming administration will do some good things for our nation after this election, especially when it comes to greater protection for the unborn and greater respect for the human right of religious liberty and conscience protection. But we have to hold the administration accountable to its promises to defend life and religious liberty. And we have to insist that the administration take seriously the sovereignty of the family, especially of immigrant families, the moral good of affordable healthcare, and the Church’s commitment to the poor. We have to insist upon a robust defense of human dignity, as it impacts economic policies, immigration policy, foreign and domestic policy agendas, and as it impacts our national character.
Since the election, protests have sparked in cities across the United States, and some cases have become occasions of considerable and inexcusable violence. The protests are a visible sign of how deeply divided our nation really is at this moment in her history. And the protests are a reminder of our Catholic obligation to foster the common good, to build a civilization of love, and to be true missionaries of mercy—those who reveal the mercy, peace, and the transformative power of Christ the King.
The day after the election, Pope Francis prayed that we would “make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.” The Holy Father was pointing to an important reality. God calls communities, and states, and nations, to a true internal communion—to a unity with one another, rooted in the unity of the Most Holy Trinity itself.
God calls the bonds of our national unity to be the bonds of a particular kind of love. And for that to come to fruition, we must be committed to genuine love of our neighbors—not to loving “mankind” in the abstract, but to regarding our countrymen, our individual neighbors whom we know, and those with whom we disagree, as the beloved children of God.
This does not mean that we should ignore disagreements with one another. Instead, it means that we should have disagreements in humility, in peace, in the true charity which is gained by seeing one another through the eyes of mercy.
Each one of us needs to pray that we will see all of our fellow citizens as Christ the King sees them: as his beloved subjects, his brothers and sisters, and those for whom he willingly gave his life on the cross.
We have serious work to do in the political forum in the next four years. But we also need to rebuild the public square as a place in which Christ the King is sovereign, and his mercy is the beginning of real common ground.
May God grant us the humility, the hope, and courage to live as subjects of Christ the Merciful King, so that his peace may reign in our hearts, and in our nation.