The freedom that Christians have in the public realm doesn’t mean we can “check out” or be indifferent to what happens in politics. We need to be involved to have a positive influence on our world. As St. Josemaría writes:
In all fields where men and women work, I insist, you also have to be present with the wonderful spirit of service of the followers of Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). It would be a very grave error to abandon imprudently the public life of nations, where you will act as the ordinary citizens that you are and with personal freedom and personal responsibility.
Our loyal and disinterested presence in public life offers immense opportunities to do good and to serve. Catholics cannot—nor can you, my children—abandon this field and leave politics in the hands of people who do not know or observe God’s law or who are clearly hostile to his holy Church.
Human affairs, private as well as social, are inescapably bound up with the law and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, Christians can easily see that there is a mutual influence between the apostolate and the regulation of society by the State, that is, political activity. As Christ said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Let us embrace our freedom and independence as we take personal responsibility in exercising our civic duty to vote and so positively influence the home in which our young people are developing the virtues and talents they need. We don’t want to be responsible for the ongoing decline of our society: for evil to triumph, it is only necessary that good men do nothing.
In short, you need to be actively, freely, and responsibly present in public life. I am speaking about our obligation to work in this area… I do so as a priest of Jesus Christ and as your Father, knowing that my place is to be above any factions and group interests…
If responsible Catholics… are not involved in temporal questions, this field will easily fall into the hands of those who do not consider the principles of the natural law, society’s true common good, or the rights of the Church. These people, moreover, don’t generally respect opinions contrary to their own. That is to say, without the Christian spirit of respecting certain untouchable principles and respecting the legitimate freedom of choice in debatable matters, there can be no peace, or freedom, or justice in society.
Freedom in public life and politics can be scary because we know some err and can lead others into error. This is why St. Josemaría says:
But Christ did not only give us an example of holy tolerance. He also gave us a very clear example of holy intransigence, when it comes to the things
of God. Jesus does not give way in the face of error (remember his terrible rebukes to the Pharisees!) nor does he tolerate the Creator being offended with impunity in his presence. Consider Christ’s holy indignation when faced with the abuse of the merchants in the Temple: He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:45-46).
So too, we cannot tolerate that God be offended in our presence, if we can prevent it. If necessary, we too will employ a holy coercion—exercised with all possible gentleness, and always respecting the legitimate freedom of consciences. In other words, we will so act that it is clear that we are not motivated by any personal interests, but only by God’s glory.
So, we look for ways to correct any error or offense to God but always act with great charity so that we don’t commit a greater offense. As St. Josemaría goes on to write:
You also know my rule for putting this spirit into practice: holy intransigence for error, and holy tolerance for the individuals who are in error. You need, however, to teach many people how to act this way, because it is not hard to find those who confuse intransigence with bullheadedness, and tolerance with abdicating rights or compromising on the truth…
By God’s grace, by which we were born into his Church at Baptism, we know that there is only one true religion, and on this point we are unyielding, intransigent, with holy intransigence. As I often say to you, is there anyone with common sense who is prepared to yield in something as simple as the sum of two plus two? Would they accept that two plus two is three and a half? Compromise in matters of faith is a sure sign that someone does not possess the truth, or is unaware that they possess it…just to make concessions one aspect of faith or morals…
And so, you will defend whatever the Church says, for when it comes to divine truths, she is the sole Teacher. And you will do so with your example, with your words, with your writings: with all the honest means at your disposal.
Yet we still need to respect the freedom of others, as St. Josemaría goes on to say:
At the same time, inspired by love for everyone’s freedom, you will respect the views of others in matters of opinion or schools of thought. In such matters, as in all other temporal affairs, the Work [Opus Dei] will never have any collective opinion, unless the Church, as part of her teaching role, has defined one for all the faithful.
[So…] together with holy intransigence, the spirit of the Work of God requires you to be always tolerant,
also in a holy way. Being faithful to the truth, safeguarding doctrinal integrity, and defending the faith does not mean being sad or dour, nor should it be animated by a desire to destroy those who are mistaken.
Think of how our Lord dealt with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, when she claimed that Samaritan worship is better than Jewish. Jesus clarifies the truth with great gentleness and charity (cf. John 4:20-26). May we deal with our family and friends in the same way, and see whole towns convert with the holy intransigence and holy tolerance that our Lord exemplifies.