January 24, 2024, 6:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals: “Unbridling God”

Contemplating today’s culture with the wisdom of Jesus and St. Francis.

God is not impressed by the might of a horse;
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;
But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who await his gracious favor.
Psalm 147:10-11

We can only wonder what the people of King David’s era would have thought about the politics and dynamics of Republicans and Democrats. While the elephant and donkey were unfamiliar to these people as esteemed party mascots, the horse was indeed revered for its versatility. And, in many respects, the horse mentioned in Psalm 147 may bring into focus what we need in order to enter into a God-centered way of political discourse.

Horses race, carry riders, haul wagons, and pull plows through the field. In the time of King David, horses were prized and monetized for their swift and powerful movements, winning laurels for their owners. Horses have also been stable and unbroken symbols of power throughout history.

It seems to me that both the Republican and Democratic parties (as well as other third parties) seek to ride an illusionary steed, each party reaching for a hold on power like that of a rider gripping the reins of a horse. As long as there is an illusion that the horse actually exists, the potential riders and their followers can create a deceptive rodeo. However, similar to “the Emperor has no clothes,” the rodeo is nothing but a traveling circus that always leaves town with its pockets full and those of its spectators empty.

What would Jesus say about this? To the Pharisees, he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Mark 12:17) Jesus saw no value in placing hope in politics. In fact, Jesus refused to become involved at any political level. So, where does that leave us?

We are left with the question of not only who we are as Christians, but whose we are. We do not belong to ourselves, but to a loving God. We are not asked to drop out of voting, or cease running for political positions. We are, however, asked not to put our hopes in any one party or one candidate as though he or she will become the “savior” or the person to cure all evil and save us from destruction. That will never happen. Only the Messiah can do that. Opening our eyes means to see through such illusions.

While God may disdain those who are impressed with illusionary images of strength, Christ shows us a way of living with acceptance of all things, as each event moves toward its completion in God’s sight and time. In so doing, we not only let go of our desire to grab earthly reins of power, but we also unbridle our expectations of God.

The compass of God always directs us into a place of clarity that can only be found in prayer. Political speeches, rallies, canvassing, posters, and marches will never expose the truth that there is a God who is pursuing us with love in this world.

If you are confused about this year’s election, begin in prayer. Hold the tension of present events until the way of God’s love and direction becomes clear to you. If this is difficult, then in the meantime use blindfolds and earplugs to block out the sights and sounds of those cantering horses.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John