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Thy Legislature Come (Part I)

Things Jesus Never Said: Thy Legislature Come! But even if Jesus never said these words, we know that Christ calls us to anticipate the advent of many things in life, including the advent of a new legislative session.

Every year, the Nebraska Legislature commences their lawmaking duties on the Wednesday following the first Monday of January. This year that falls on Wednesday, Jan. 9. As 2019 is an odd-numbered year, the legislature will be convening the first year of a two-year (biennium) period. As you’ll recall, odd-numbered years consist of a 90-day session, while even-numbered years consist of a 60-day session. The legislature meets longer in the odd-numbered years to fulfill its constitutional obligation to pass a statewide, balanced budget.

Notably, the 2019 legislative session also marks the beginning of Nebraska’s 106th Legislature. As we anticipate this year’s legislative session, I want to provide some practical advice to prepare you for the 106th Legislature. I’ll do this in two parts, so you’ll have to patiently await the second installment. But this first part should provide plenty for your interior reflection.

Do Not Be Afraid. Saint Pope John Paul II often reiterated the words of Holy Scripture. Among his favorite words of Scripture to recite, he regularly admonished us not to be afraid. John Paul repeated these words so often because he was intimately familiar with human nature and our tendency to be governed by fear.

But John Paul knew that Christ did not come for us to live in fear. Christ came for us to live authentic freedom on our path toward Heaven.

Despite Christ’s call to freedom, I often witness in the lives of Catholics—including my own—the tendency to be ruled by fear when it comes to engaging the legislative process. People fear they don’t know enough about politics. They fear they don’t know enough about policy. They fear their state senator is too important or too busy to talk to them. They fear that they are just one person, and that’s not enough to make a difference. So on and so forth. The list of fears is endless.

And while many of these fears seem reasonable—maybe we actually aren’t all that knowledgeable about politics or policy—they aren’t good enough reasons to avoid getting involved in the legislative process. At best, they are tricks our human nature plays on us to make us avoid looking foolish, in an attempt to preserve our pride. At worst, they are snares of the Evil One, who will do anything to inhibit us from transforming the temporal-political order as Christ has called us to do.

Returning to John Paul. When John Paul II was elected Pope, it seems only reasonable to assume a number of fears entered his heart and mind. After all, he knew his own limitations, failures, and sins. Yet, John Paul found courage within his own heart to respond with a ‘Yes!’ to serve Christ as His Vicar on earth. As well, he never tired of calling others to take heart and have courage in their everyday tasks of life. In that vein, I leave you with these words John Paul offered at his inaugural Mass as Pope. May they inspire and encourage you to become more politically active!

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man.” He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.”

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