I’ll just admit here that I’m going to succumb to a discussion of the election in relation to this Sunday’s scriptures. Most of the homilists I’ve heard in recent weeks have already succumbed, so I suppose I’m in good company in seeking solace in scripture.
But I want to focus not on voting, which occupies nearly everyone’s mind and homilies these days (“Read Faithful Citizenship,” the deacon proclaimed last week…) – but what we shall do post-election. I think Catholics ought to be far less concerned than we have been with our voting, and far more concerned with how we are to live in spite of the votes that we cast. For regardless of how you vote, it is most definitely the case that, regardless of who gets elected, our elected officials will not embody all, perhaps even most, of what Catholics hold to be good and truthful about human society and relationships, especially as named in our Catholic social doctrine. Justice will likely not occur in precisely the ways any one of us hopes, nor in the ways that the Church strives to teach. Regardless of what happens on November 8th, our call to witness to Jesus Christ remains.
What does that mean in light of this week’s scriptures? I suggest the following three points to consider.
- Post-election, let us be the people who witness to Jesus Christ by stepping up our care and concern for the poor and oppressed. “The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.”Sirach is persistent in the characterization of God as caring for the poor, including the widows, the orphans, and the lowly. Sirach also reminds us that it is God’s justice – not worldly justice – that we are seeking. Some of the verses that are omitted, or that surround this reading are important for the context. For example, verse 15: “Do not trust in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion, For he is a God of justice, who shows no partiality.” Or verse 20: “Those who serve God to please him are accepted; their petition reaches the clouds.”
Voting is so often characterized with the terms we use regarding justice: that our one vote will be what saves the unborn from dying, the immigrants from certain deportation, the poor from high taxes, low wage jobs, poor child care, and best uses of war Okay, sure, voting helps get people in power who might possibly be able to help with some of these things. But our long experience with the American political system should also make us cautious of being overly ambitious about what our votes will do – for in fact, having the “right” political parties in power have not led to overturning Roe V. Wade; having the left in power has not led to decreases in going to war.
It is not at all a stretch to consider our language about contemporary voting as a bit like trusting “in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.” Our politicians extract votes from us in exchange for promises that often go unheeded.
So vote – but then let it go – precisely because the God we worship is a God who “knows no favorites” and hears the cry of the poor. Our response to God, then, is to serve God and the people God hears. Which leads to my second point…
- Post-election, let us be the people who willingly and tellingly cross the aisle; let us show that we are not defined by our political parties. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy is instructive for us: he poignantly describes his first trial and the fact that his friends abandoned him and left him to his own devices. Yet Paul speaks a word of forgiveness: “May it not be held against them.” Paul focuses instead on the glories God has given in Jesus Christ. He is ready and willing to face whatever may come, including his own death. He senses, and is prepared for, his martyrdom, which he knows is likely because of his faith.
In the present election, none of us is likely martyrs for our faith, not even if our guys lose (whoever our guys may be…) Our deaths are not likely imminent because of our votes. But we may well fail to keep the faith if we do not seek to forgive those whom we think have wronged us; we will fail to keep the faith if we let party politics define us and destroy our relationships that we have in the Body of Christ. Surely we, too, can focus on the glories of God and on the people God has given us in Christ Jesus, regardless of party affiliation. Can we cross lines, publicly embrace each other, and markedly demonstrate love for each other precisely because we recognize in each other that all of us have struggled in this election and have had to make imperfect decisions? And yet God is still God: “To Him be glory forever and ever.”
Perhaps our best activity will be to have mundane dinner parties, in which we invite each other over and drink wine, feast, and proclaim the Gospel with our unspoken words.
- Post-election, let us be the people who seek humility and mercy. Jesus’ religious man – the Pharisee – loudly self-proclaims his own goodness, and that he is a stand out from the rest. Yet in doing that, he misses the point. Just as Sirach reminded us that God has no favorites – not even those Catholics who can name all the principles of Catholic faith – so Jesus teaches that having a right relationship with God is not about our own goodness. It is, instead, about God’s goodness and love of us anyway. And that love of us anyway extends even to those with whom we vehemently disagree.
Let us pray, with the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Let us repeat as often as necessary, especially post-election – and in doing so, let us learn to love each other still more.