In these days of transition in the political life of our nation and in cultures East and West, such as we see in the intense growth of Christianity in former Communist lands while the Faith is increasingly suppressed in formerly Christian countries including our own, we are going through a social earthquake not unlike the transition of the Roman Republic into an Imperium. Our own nation increasingly indulges luxury and selfishness while rejecting its foundational principles, just as decadent Romans from the second century onwards could hardly connect with the virtuous ideals of the former Republic. The Founding Fathers of our country would be bewildered by the ignorance, vulgarity and opulence that permeate politics today.
That said, the opportunities to work for Christ as his stewards are unparalleled, given the fertile minds and astonishing means of communication available to the Church today. It is the nature of a bureaucracy, even in the Church, to promote mediocrity and to perpetuate corruption, but true Christians have unsurpassed means to defy and deny that calcification of the Gospel.
The noble pagan, Cicero, knew how to be clever with politics and was not pristine in practicing what he preached, but he never forgot the best of his culture and even went into exile for opposing what was unworthy of Rome. Bereft of any mystical intuition beyond the cultic superstition of his day, which his innate cynicism tempered, he revealed the best in himself when he called natural gratitude the “parent” of all the other virtues. He was speaking of life in the earthly city of Rome, which some still call the Eternal City. He was unaware of the true Eternal City spoken of by Christ, nor did he know of an ultimate and superior gratitude which is the Holy Eucharist.
For ourselves, we know of that Eucharist and must live a life of constant gratitude for it, lest we take it for granted. In daily commerce, we must also be grateful to God for giving us life and, for those in this parish, for being able to live that life in this neighborhood which is undergoing the fastest and most exhilarating development in the history of our country. As “Hell’s Kitchen” becomes the spectacularly energized and wealthy “Hudson Yards,” we should always remember it for what it was and be grateful to God for making us actors in the social drama currently playing here. Our souls would be endangered were we to luxuriate in the commercial and residential construction around us. This demographic gift is an assignment from God: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from him to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48). God will show us what to do and how to do it if we give him thanks for the chance and the challenge.
- Father George W. Rutler