For the past several weeks, as we have experienced the roller coaster of the recent elections, the words of St. Paul have been ever present in my mind: “our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 3:20) Those words have brought me great peace in the midst of the uncertainty of what lies ahead for our country. Because of our baptism, we have been made members of the Body of Christ, the Church, which makes us citizens of His Heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. As opposed to the uncertainty we will always face when we focus on our earthly journey, there is no uncertainty or worry about what lies ahead for us as citizens of Heaven. As St. Paul reminds us, the hope for the final, eternal, perfect peace of Heaven will never leave us disappointed. (cf Rom. 5:5) On the contrary, when our hope is placed here, we are bound to be disappointed.
Please do not hear in the above words something I am not saying. Just because we are bound to be disappointed here on earth does not mean that we are not concerned about our lives here and our citizenship in the country and society in which we find ourselves. In that regard, I came across a helpful commentary on this passage that I would like to share:
The Christian community, too, included both citizens and noncitizens. Therefore, when Paul asserts that the citizenship of Christians truly is in heaven, he is not saying they do not have a life in Philippi, but rather that the source of their security and identity is the risen Messiah, whom they worship as Lord and Savior. If Jesus is Lord and Savior in the most absolute sense, then Caesar is not. So the point is not that the Philippian Christians are in exile but that, as members of the church, they live as a colony of heaven, not of the Roman Empire; their ultimate allegiance is to the Lord Christ, not to Lord Caesar. And they await a visitation not from the Roman savior but from the Savior Christ.
Dennis Hamm, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, ed. Peter S. Williamson and Mary Healy, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 136.
Jesus never told us to withdraw from society, burying our heads in the sand. No, He uses images such as “salt”, “light”, and “leaven” to speak of the effect that we should have in the world around us. We are called to be instruments who draw people to Christ and His truth, so that they too can see in Him the sole hope for peace and lasting happiness. Again, because of our baptism, we can live with a real sense of joy, knowing that our security lies in Christ the King, who has already won the victory and we know that if we persevere in our faith in Him, we will share fully in that victory as well in Heaven. Let us recommit ourselves to being good citizens of Heaven, even here as we await the final victory that awaits.