Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
November 22, 2015
The Feast of Christ the King
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.” John 18:36
These words should press the pause button in our modern day approach to problem solving, where we confidently rely on our own ability. We create government programs, NGO’s, and support groups to solve our problems. Jesus simply gives us Himself. The dialogue between Jesus and Pilate highlights this truth.
The crafty, bureaucratic, government official meets a stranger to his methods. Jesus is no political figure. He is not a nationalist. He is not an insurrectionist. He is not working to establish an earthly kingdom free of Roman occupation. “[His] kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). Instead His purpose, the only reason for His coming “into the world [is] to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). So, if you are looking for Jesus to endorse your political agenda, you are indeed misguided. Jesus came to reveal the truth of God’s kingdom. To forget this is to risk forgetting God.
Perhaps this is why Pope Francis warns us frequently about denying original sin. He refers to this as Pelagianism. Pelagianism is basically mankind’s over-confident reliance on himself to solve all his problems. Carried to an extreme, this approach leads to the denial of a need for God.
Recently the Pope spoke about this precise point to the bishops of Germany making their ad limina. He told them to avoid trusting in “administrative structures” to address problems. We are not saved by how well our business is organized or how much money we can raise. In a country where Mass attendance has dipped to less than 10 percent, where there is a critical shortage of priests, and where the vast majority of Catholics no longer go to confession, the Pope said the Year for Mercy offers an opportunity. And what is that opportunity? The Church must seek revival by rediscovering “the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist” (Address to the German Bishops, November 20, 2015). What the Holy Father said specifically to the German bishops can be applied to us all.
To proclaim the Kingdom of God, Jesus did not set up a study group or hire a public relations firm. The Kingdom to which Jesus belonged had a program which was and remains not of this world. Its mission is to proclaim the truth.
For this reason, the Holy Father reminded the German bishops of fundamentals. For example, he reminded them that the Church must “never get tired of being the advocate of life, and should never step back from proclaiming that human life must be protected unconditionally from conception to natural death” (Address to the German Bishops, November 20, 2015). Pope Francis made clear that what he taught did not deviate in any respect from the immemorial moral and dogmatic teaching of the Church.
At the recent meeting of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, someone suggested that perhaps Pope Francis had given us a new direction, away from so-called “social issues” and towards “global poverty and degradation of the earth.” One of our leading archbishops rose to correct that notion. He said that talk of “regime change” is misguided. To suggest that Pope Francis is not in concert with his predecessors is erroneous. Pope Francis wants the bishops of the Church to promote “the totality of issues of Catholic teaching… holding up what [is] right and true and just.” The idea that there is some shift going on in the Church, away from “divisive social issues to protecting the environment and immigrants and helping the poor,” is inaccurate. Discontinuity or rupture is the way of the world, and it is incompatible with our message and that of Jesus Christ.
There are no “issues,” as the world understands that word. The only issue is how true we are to the teachings of Christ. The Gospel is not about an agenda or a political party, a passing fad or a fleeting opinion. There is only the truth. And the truth stands before the powers of the world, like Pilate, and speaks for everything that is “right and true and just,” for the unborn as well as the poor, for religious freedom as well as the homeless. In this way, Jesus Christ manifests Himself as He truly is: “… the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever [and ever]. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6).
Bishop Glen John Provost