By Leon Suprenant | February 1, 2008
Even though it’s written on our souls rather than our passports, our true home is heaven. As God’s children by adoption (cf. Gal. 4:4-7), we are citizens of both the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom.
There is one significant difference between our earthly citizenship and our heavenly citizenship. As citizens of this world, we strive to change the world for the better through our participation in human endeavors, great or small. Rather than conform to the world and simply reflect the secular mindset of the status quo, we are called to be countercultural thermostats as we strive to build a civilization of life and love. Our Lord calls us to be leaven in the world; just “fitting in” doesn’t quite cut it.
After all, as Catholics we have the advantage of the fullness of revealed truth. We also have a rich corpus of social teaching and a developed sense of the natural law that the Magisterium preserves from error–or social engineering. The Church’s urgent call to Catholic laity today is that we use these blessings to help transform the temporal order, including social, political, and economic realities.
As citizens of heaven, though, we strive to allow the Lord to change us through our participation in the communion of saints. We do so most efficaciously through our frequent and devout reception of the Holy Eucharist, as noted in my previous post. We become by grace something that we’re not by nature.
Sometimes we get our citizenships confused. Since the goal of our participation in the earthly kingdom is to allow the Gospel to permeate and illuminate all aspects of the temporal order, it is a serious error to believe that the faith should be kept out of the public square, out of voting booths, out of schools, and out of courtrooms. Rather than serve as leaven, Catholics in the world are too often disinclined to “impose” or even “propose” our values, either out of a lack of moral conviction, or out of an erroneous understanding of the “separation of Church and State.”
And since the goal of our participation in the heavenly kingdom is our own sanctification, it makes no sense to place our emphasis on trying to change the God-given structure of the Church, as though we’re God’s gift to the Church. It’s really the other way around–the Church is God’s gift to us! While the Church does desire our full participation in her life and mission, the fact is that we’re sinners, and we need the Church to make us saints. If the Church were a hospital, we’d do well to understand our primary role as patients, not physicians or administrators.
We have dual citizenship, but not dual personalities. We can’t hide our faith as though we’re in some sort of witness protection program. We can’t separate our religious convictions from our activity in this world. We can’t shy away from having our faith in Jesus Christ–the pearl of great price–inform our public lives.
After all, if Christ doesn’t make all the difference in our lives, He doesn’t make any difference. He isn’t a part-time or situational Savior, a spiritual “resource” we call upon only when it seems expedient. Rather, our heavenly citizenship must affect every aspect of our life here below.
But there is an “eschatological tension” kindled by the Eucharist. In the sacred liturgy, we truly receive a glimpse or foretaste of heaven. At the same time, the Eucharist actually increases our sense of responsibility for the world today. We don’t forsake one citizenship for the other, but rather we help plant seeds of supernatural hope as we unite our daily activities to Christ.
As we long for the coming of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26), the Eucharist transforms us, and in turn commits us to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel.