Wise Men before Herod | Three wise men, Wise men, Bible images

By Will Deatherage, Executive Director

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Isaiah 60:1-4

#Goodbye2020 #Welcome2021: These hashtags greeted me when I logged into Twitter last week. Given the emotional toll last year took on the world, this enthusiasm for 2021 is understandable. A lifesaving vaccine, a new President and Congress, and the next era of public health and safety are on the horizon. Although the difference between December 31 and January 1 is a fraction of a second, a mystique surrounding New Year’s Eve makes us feel like we are in a new world the next day. This mirage of a transformation inspires millions of people to commit themselves to self-betterment, only to abandon their resolutions within weeks, if not days. This is why gym memberships soar in early January but drop off soon after. Our forgetfulness is not merely reserved for New Years, though. Every four years, Americans unite to participate in what seems to be the only tradition we can all support anymore: We bully, belittle, and cancel each other for the sake of endorsing some candidate or political movement that will inevitably fail to accomplish its goals. Every four years in November, our country inches closer to partisan collapse in the name of idealistic pursuits just to forget about our wounds and expect them to heal in time for the next election year. There is no event in the world that involves such a massive shift from intensity to passivity than American elections. In many ways, Election Day is our nation’s not-so happy New Year.

Despite the allure of a new year, especially after an election year, today’s problems are no different than last week’s; our nation is still in extraordinary debt, our government still has unprecedented authority over our families, trust in law enforcement is still at an all-time low, mental health disorders are still at an all-time high, extreme global poverty is still at its worst in recent memory, and socialism is still knocking on our doors. December 31 was not the end of these problems; if anything, our nation is in more danger today than it was yesterday. We cannot sustain another typical four-year cycle of apathy interrupted by division. 2021 must be the year of vigilance.

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace 
that was given to me for your benefit, 
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations 
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Ephesus 3:2-3a, 5-6a

People often ask me why I am so concerned about politics. The above passage mentions stewardship. Through God’s self-revelation, which began with Adam, God gave us lowly humans stewardship over the Earth. As described in Genesis, His command that we take care of His creatures demonstrates a natural order we must strive to preserve. St. Paul mentions how witnesses to Christ are called to a unique position of stewardship, beyond natural law, having been given His divine mandates. With such knowledge comes the task of preserving the world both temporally and spiritually, since our Earthly actions have Heavenly consequences. Good ethics and spirituality demand vigilance; we must hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to protect the world God gave us.

2021 may offer us new leaders and lifesaving technologies, but if we are not good stewards and fail to be vigilant, these remedies might turn into weapons that could spell our nation’s demise. A new vaccine resurrects conversations about conscientious objection, and intense public health measures tread a thin line between safety and a police state. Remember that even King David, the purest and most beloved of Biblical kings, fell because he failed to stay vigilant of sin’s corruptive powers.

Following the deadliest terrorist attack in American history on September 11, 2001, our government attempted to restore confidence in our national security by swiftly enacting controversial policies in the name of public safety that would have churned the stomachs of our Founding Fathers. In a post-9/11 world, suspected terrorists are arrested and detained without due process, wars in the Middle East go unquestioned, and everything I type is stored in databases that government agencies can access without my consent. Such measures are not ill-intended; in fact, they have accomplished some good. But a powerful government that is unchecked and unquestioned by its citizens can quickly become a dangerous one. As an absolute monarch, King David was the only person responsible for monitoring his government’s activities, but in a democracy, this vigilance becomes a shared responsibility that is undermined by apathy.

Last Summer, our government promised that stimulus packages would not lead to socialism, shutdowns would not be a primary mechanism for combatting COVID-19, and a vaccine would quickly restore us to normalcy. Today, our government continues to spend money recklessly, businesses are still closed after “fourteen days to slow the spread,” and the timeline back to normalcy has been pushed to 2022. I must stress that a significant number of national security measures following 9/11 were advertised as temporary, though decades later they remain in effect. I fear that a similar phenomenon will follow COVID-19 in the forms of both seasonal and permanent economic and social restrictions that will severely impact our personal liberties we require to prosper. A free market is not viable in a nation that shuts down any time a new virus threatens a miniscule proportion of our population, just as a free society is not viable in a social media landscape that shuts down opposing ideas. Liberty is always threatened by crises. This is not to say that nothing should be done when crises come our way, but we should remain prudent and vigilant of how many liberties we are willing to sacrifice and when we can expect them to return. If the vaccine proves effective, we have a God-given duty to pester and protest our leaders to take us back to normalcy, not to a perverted utopian vision that many of them have in mind.

[The Magi] were overjoyed at seeing the star, 
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures 
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod [who promised to bring the child gifts but secretly sought to kill him], 
they departed for their country by another way.

Matthew 2:9-12

In the book of Luke, the vigilant Magi prevented King Herod, a trusted politician who lured them with his false promises, from abusing his powers and killing the infant Christ. Their vigilance paid off when they heeded the warning of an angel who informed them of Herod’s nefarious plans. When humanity’s greatest hope was manifest, it was threatened by a political force that sought to use mankind’s naivete and innocence to crush it. Vigilance saved the Holy Family and the human race. Much like the Magi, we must remain vigilant by making sure that our temporal hopes and leaders who represent them are not corrupted. We cannot be New Year’s Eve people, we cannot be election-year Americans, and we cannot be Christmas-Easter Catholics. We must be vigilant, especially when hope is on the horizon, for without vigilance, our greatest dreams become our worst nightmares.

0 comments on “2021: The Year of Vigilance or the Year of our Demise?

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