Here in Alberta the province is in election mode. As in any electoral campaign, the political parties are steadily unveiling what we call their “platforms”. In these, they spell out for the electorate their plans to address issues pertaining to the economy, finance, environment, education, healthcare, infrastructure, support for families, care for the needy and so on. The Church encourages us, as citizens, to exercise our civic duty by examining these platforms carefully, in order to make an informed decision on election day as to which party will best govern our province in the service of the common good.
Does God have a “platform”? Are we even asking that question? When it comes to the development and execution of a plan to serve the common good of all people, are we, in effect, leaving this solely to those who wish to govern? Might not God have something to say about how to live our lives, both individually and collectively?
God does, indeed, have a “platform”. It has been placed before us for centuries in the Sacred Scriptures. The platform pertains to nothing less than the salvation of the world. The plan for its accomplishment is God’s action in history to reconcile people to Himself, so that they might share in His very divine life for all eternity.
In an election campaign, the announcement of plans is accompanied by a variety of promises. It is not uncommon for those promises to be met with a certain level of skepticism among voters. God, too, has made a promise to us, namely, to be ever faithful to his pledge of covenant love. Out of that same love, He has promised to send a Saviour and to pour out his Spirit into our hearts to re-create us and thus enable us to know and follow His ways. God is forever faithful to all that He promises. No basis for scepticism on that point! The Father’s fidelity is on full and wondrous display in the gifts of His Son, incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and of the Holy Spirit poured forth into our hearts, initially at Pentecost and now through the sacramental celebrations of the Church.
Have we a place in the divine platform? How do we enter into this plan? Often people running for political office will be rather careful about stating what their plans might actually demand of us. Asking people to change their ways or to make sacrifices does not usually pave the way to electoral victory. Yet, change and sacrifice is exactly what God asks of us. This is captured powerfully in the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son, proclaimed on Sunday (cf. Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32).
In this masterpiece of teaching, we hear Jesus use an expression to describe the moment when the rebellious son, having squandered everything in dissolute living, decided to return to his Father. He says that the son “came to himself”. This is sometimes translated as, “When he came to his senses.” THAT is what is demanded of us for participation in the divine platform of salvation. We each need to “come to our senses”, to awaken to the truth of our situation. Like the prodigal son, we, too, have abandoned in many ways our God who loves us beyond measure and have tried to live as if He either does not care or does not even exist. When we thus come to our senses, the only appropriate response is repentance, that is to say, a radical change in our lives, whereby we give up all that is contrary to the love and commandments of God and follow the plan He has placed before us in His Son.
Jesus would not have been elected to office on such a platform. Indeed, the opposite happened: the political and religious forces of the day had him crucified. Let’s not push Jesus away. Rather, let us allow Jesus to embrace us with mercy so that, in him, we can throw ourselves into the loving and strong arms of our heavenly Father. Our only true hope for the fullness of life is God’s plan to save us in His Son.