Saturday, July 28, 2007

A brief observation

I have just begun reading Earthly Powers by Michael Burleigh and I have been finding it incredibly enlightening. The basis of the book is the clash of religion and politics, with a focus on the period from the French Revolution to The Great War.

One thing that he notices is the idea of the State replacing the religion, providing man something to worship and find fulfillment in on Earth. This is all in the introduction and is to be expounded upon later on, but it got me thinking.

We hear all the stories about fire and brimstone from the homilies of the past, and yet it seems to have completely disappeared from the modern mentality of preaching. Whether this is good or bad is not a judgment I am going to make here and now, but simply an observation.

What Burleigh argues for is that the State offers a bringing about of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth through political and economic means, while the Church offers the Kingdom of Heaven, knowing that the only Person who can make that reality of happen is God.

Well, if we look at the trend of homiletics (I am making a semi-generalization, though I of course do know that this is not a universal at all, but simply a trend), we see that we no longer focus on the world to come, on the eschaton. Rather, we now focus on the world. It is as if fulfillment is in our grasp here and now by creating a justly ordered world in which every tear will be wiped away. It is what Voegelin called the "cult of immanency of the eschaton", that is, that the Kingdom of Heaven is present on Earth through this cultish embrace by the State.

This mentality has been felt in homiletics in which we no longer hear of the world to come because it truly is no longer at the forefront of our minds but is rather now replaced with the eschaton of the now. Now, I am of course not blaming the priests for this, but I do think it does call for reflection too.

Do we simply keep our reflections solely on the now, or do we keep our focus on the world to come. Fulfillment in this world or in the next? Which is higher? I know all good Catholics will say the latter. If it is the latter, then I believe we must re-examine our eschatonal (I am making up a word there!) orientation. We must orientate ourselves towards Heaven and the life to come, which will thus witness to this world that though peace and justice are important aspects of this world, they pale in comparison to the Kingdom of God in the world to come. Let us reclaim the eschaton.

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