Called to engage the world 12/24/2015

“Eternal Father, You call us to engage the world so that Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, might be made visible in the words and actions of Your servants.”  These are the opening words to a prayer for the work of the Nebraska Catholic Conference that was written by the Carmelite Sisters from the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso. The staff of the Nebraska Catholic Conference prays this prayer together at the beginning of each work day.

While many Catholics may know about the work of the Catholic Conference, undoubtedly many more have never heard (or know little) about the Conference. The Conference represents the voice of the Bishops in Nebraska in the public policy arena.

In this capacity, NCC monitors and interacts with all three branches of state government for the purpose of promoting public understanding of the Church’s teachings and concerns about morality, justice, health, welfare, education, and human rights.  We engage our representatives on the federal level in the same way but in conjunction with the work of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition to our lobbying activities, a large part of our work involves informing and advising the dioceses, parishes, other Church organizations and interested individuals concerning the public-policy processes, activities of the political community and the moral and social dimensions and implications of public issues.

Engaging the world, especially in the public policy arena, so as to make visible our Lord Jesus Christ can be very difficult.  This is especially true in our current society where the very nature and meaning of human life, love and sexuality, and marriage are redefined in ways that are entirely alien to their Creator.

The difficulty in being faithful and engaged Christians is also compounded by other factors.  One of these factors is an increasing hostility and intolerance in our secular society toward those who publicly proclaim and defend the truth about human life, love and marriage as given to us by Jesus Christ.

It is easy to understand the temptation to quietly go about our lives and avoid addressing and opposing unjust actions because they are unpleasant and contentious.  It takes courage to step out of our comfort zone and stand up for what is right and just and true, especially when it could come at some cost to our relationships, reputation, or our livelihood.

Another factor is a general increase in distractions and unnecessary busy-ness that competes with our Christian responsibility to “go into the vineyard and proclaim the Good News”. There is a saying that those the devil can’t make bad he makes busy.

Everyone certainly has legitimate priority responsibilities (faith, family, marriage, work) and we can certainly engage the world in these contexts.  But we cannot overlook our Christian responsibility to engage in the political life of society.

In their recently updated “Faithful Citizenship” document, the U.S. Bishops point out that “[i]n the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. ‘People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens’ (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 220).

“The obligation to participate in political life is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, ‘It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person….  As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (nos. 1913-1915).

In just a couple of weeks, the Nebraska Legislature will begin its 2016 session and is likely to debate legislation that impacts the rights and dignity of human life and sexuality as well as children and families. The Nebraska Catholic Conference needs the voices of Catholics around the state to join with ours so we can more effectively advance the cause of human life and love and resist policies that undermine it.

One simple way to help us is to join Catholic Action Network Nebraska so we can inform and mobilize you on important public policy matters.  You can sign up on our website at www.necatholic.org.