Reading: James 3:13-18
I love the letter of St. James. It’s a letter of practical faith, and many of its passages give us a strong reality check to be sure that we are practicing our faith as the Lord intends. Today’s reading gives us a little gem of discernment. We might ask ourselves, how can we distinguish true, holy wisdom from the so-called “wisdom” of this world? And St. James is very clear. Is that wisdom laden with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition? Well, if it is, then it’s probably earthly and definitely worthless. But is it full of spiritual fruits: is it “first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity?” Well, if it’s this kind of wisdom, then it’s right, then it’s holy wisdom from above.
Whenever we have an election, I am struck by how much bitter jealousy and selfish ambition creep in. Debates aren’t so much about sharing the candidates’ ideas of how to make our society better, but instead about tearing each other apart, muckraking and backbiting. They’re full of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Maybe it’s even impossible for a Christian to run for public office if this is where they need to go in campaigning. This year, all the candidates have engaged in this shameful behavior, and quite frankly, it makes me sad.
But, then again, that’s why we are here tonight, right? We are here because it’s up to us to bring about a society that is “first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” Our politicians are only going to do that kind of thing if we insist on it, and as baptized believers, it is up to us to insist on a society built strongly upon spirit-filled and spirit-led virtues.
It’s important that we realize that as our country comes to a decision tonight, we still have a long way to go. It might be tempting to cast our vote and then feel like we’ve done what we’re called to do and can wash our hands of anything that happens. But our Church does not give us permission to do this. Our Church refuses to let us say “hey don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him (or her).” Instead, we are called to be agents for change in our time and place by praying for our elected officials, even if they weren’t the ones we voted for, and by witnessing to our values so that they might do the right thing for our society.
We want to have a society where the most vulnerable are always taken care of. We absolutely want a nation that respects life at all ages and all stages, and we have to insist on that as a matter of utmost importance. We want to be a people that is mindful of the poor, that advocates for the marginalized, that cares for God’s creation. We want the whole package of justice and peace, and not one of the candidates running for office today can promise us that. Not packaged as they are, at any rate. And so it is up to us to continue to demand from them the right choices.
We have to be able to write to our nation’s leaders: presidents, congressmen, senators and everyone else. We have some brochures available on the table outside today. They are written by our diocese and provide instructions on how you can do that. What if we made it our new year’s resolution to write a politician once a month and insist that they vote to end abortion and euthanasia and protect life at all ages and stages every time it comes up for a vote, and not just when it’s politically convenient? What if we wrote also asking for an end to the death penalty in a nation that should be able to do a better job of protecting its citizens without using that horrible option? What if we insisted in our letters that they defend the poor every time they have the occasion to do so, knowing that our God loves the poor in a special way? What if we wrote and told them that care for God’s creation isn’t just a political fad, but a commandment of our God?
What would happen if we would all write a letter to one elected official just once a month, asking them to vote as the Church teaches, and promising to pray for them in their work? Could we not then be contributing to a society that is “first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity?” I sure think we could make a huge difference that way. Because however things turn out tonight, we are still going to have a long way to go before we have before us a nation that follows the Gospel of Life and our God’s call to protect the poor. And we cannot, must not wash our hands of things and say we’ve done what we could just because we voted. We have to be faithful citizens not just today, but in all the days ahead. May God bless our country and bless us all in our vocation of building the Kingdom of God.