Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, will be inaugurated into office today.  His rise to the presidency comes during a divisive time where the country is at an ideological crossroads.  Our deliberative democracy is devolving into vilification of people who do not share our same political viewpoint.

We as Christians and as a Church will have to discern what Jesus is calling us to do.  As the Second Vatican Council stated, “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ.”[1]  This discernment will might be harder for us to enter into than we might think.  Analysis of the election results demonstrated that, compared to other demographic information like race or socioeconomic status, faith identification seemed to have little notable effect for whom a voter casted her ballot.  As Christians, we have much to strive for in living the vision of kindness and truth meeting, as the Psalmist describes, as embodied in Jesus’ life.

Instead of a reflection on today’s reading, I think it is important we enter into a time of prayer to ask God for guidance.  A Jesuit in formation, Kyle Shinseki, wrote this examen of consciousness below in the wake of the election night.[2]  I have provided here for your private prayer this day to discern how God is calling you to act and reconcile our political climate.

First, we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us recognize God’s steadfast mercy and love for us. We recall God’s faithfulness in our lives and find concrete reasons to be grateful. Instead of focusing on our own reaction to the election results, we consider how God might encourage us at this particular moment. One might pray with the words of Saint Teresa of Ávila: “Let nothing disturb you, nothing distress you; everything passes, God never changes; patience overcomes everything; whoever has God lacks nothing, God alone suffices.”

Then, we ask where we find God after the polls have closed. We can grow quite attached to “our” candidates, so it may be difficult to let go if “our” candidates lose. In contrast, if “our” candidates win, we can be blinded by our elation and may unwittingly attribute divine qualities to human political figures. So, we turn to God to give us the freedom to keep things in proper perspective. Whether “our” candidates have won or lost, we place our hope in God’s hands and pray for those elected, as Pope Francis encourages us, “that they can govern well, that they can love their people, that they can serve their people, that they can be humble.”

Next, we must humbly ask God to help us see where we ourselves have been lacking in faith, hope, and love during the campaigns. While we may have initially been motivated by faith, we may have let our worries, insecurities, or even anger take over. Were we afraid of losing our way of life or certain rights and freedoms? Have we felt threatened by another’s point of view? Is there a time where we could only see someone from an opposing party as the “enemy” and not as a person created in God’s image? Are we able to recognize how these moments distanced us from God, and then ask God to forgive and heal us?

In order to move forward, we need to recognize that God continues to work through our all-too-human nature. We ask for the grace to find God at work, even on “the other side of the aisle.” We can only do this if we define ourselves not by who or what we are against, but rather by who and what we are for. As Christians, our lives are to be oriented toward Christ and building God’s kingdom. When we define ourselves in this positive way, we open ourselves to finding common ground and are then able to move toward the future with hope.

[1] Second Vatican Council, “Gaudium et Spesin Vatican Council II: The Basic Sixteen Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, OP (Northport: Costello Publishing, 1996), [1].

[2] See the examen at http://jesuits.org/news-detail?tn=news-20161102122654_a.

January 20th, 2017