I’m writing this article the day before election day (Monday, Nov. 7th) but it will run in our bulletin on the weekend following. So, I believe I can safely assume some of you (maybe even MY post-election self) are reading this article at this moment and are still “having some feels” as my daughters would say.
Matt Malone, SJ wrote this great little opinion piece for America magazine, in which he said “I can virtually guarantee that if you attend Mass on Sunday morning in any parish in the United States, you will find yourself sitting in a pew near someone who disagrees with you about what the public policy should be on abortion, or same-sex marriage, or the death penalty. While the teaching of the church on the moral dimensions of these issues is consistent, there is today, as there has always been, a spirited debate about HOW to APPLY those moral principles in the public realm, one that is democratic, diverse and nonsectarian. Catholics are free to disagree with one another in good conscience, if not about the moral principles at stake, then certainly about the prudential application of those principles in the public square. Our fundamental identity and unity as Catholic Christians does not reside in our allegiance to a set of ideas, much less to some political manifesto. Our unity resides in the person of Jesus Christ. For us, truth is ultimately a person – a ‘someone’ we encounter rather than a ‘something’ with which we beat each other over the head.”
So, whatever the election outcome (and believe me, I’m preaching the message I most need to hear now!) I suggest we read together as a community… prayerfully…thoughtfully John 17:11-23. It is Jesus’ prayer for unity that he prayed for us the night before he died, at his last Passover meal that we Christians also recognize as the first celebration of the Eucharist; a pretty significant moment in history. Within one short chapter, Jesus prays that we “may be one” FIVE times.
Eucharist is considered the “Sacrament of Unity” for us Catholics. It is also our primary sacrament of healing and reconciliation. One of the fundamental purposes of our weekly shared sacred meal and of our parish as a whole is to build community, to build unity, to stand in solidarity with one another even if we disagree. This ability to remain one, united community even amidst the destructive and extreme divisiveness in our culture right now is a MASSIVE part of our witness as Christians – to our children and to the world. So, if you are still licking your wounds from the election, I get it (I might be too) but please don’t check out and take your toys and go home! Love is stronger and much more important than any political party and we, as Catholics, are called to remain as “one” as Jesus prayed – no matter what. I think this unconditional unity could even be considered our central charism.
For Jesus, sin is not a lack of perfection which is related to our personal performance, but rather a lack of inclusiveness and acceptance – sin is anything that keeps us at a distance from God, others, and our best selves. In a word, sin is alienation. So, we need to follow Jesus’ lead and resist any action that threatens our wholeness; anything that keeps us at a distance or makes us become lost or separated. “There is no ‘us and them.’ There is only US.” (Boyle)
“Jesus was a man of reconciliation in a world that had accepted, and even gloried in division, in proclaiming who was an insider and who was an outsider, the clean and the unclean. He was struggling to bring together people who others were struggling to keep apart. God desires unity and rejoices more when a wholeness is approached by the inclusion of what was formerly excluded than when an incompleteness, even when it is a righteous incompleteness, remains even one short.” (Shea)