Thursday, October 18, 2018

Exercising Our Civic Duty

Dear Friends,

My friends, Giuseppe and Mark delayed returning to Milan, Italy until they could vote early in New York State. They wouldn’t miss voting for anything! Giuseppe became a citizen of the United States in 2008, in time to vote in the presidential election that year. At the same time I experience his enthusiasm for the American process, I recall people who didn’t vote in 2016, because they didn’t like either presidential candidate. Their vote was lost.

This blog comes with a couple of weeks left before Election Day to encourage you to encourage others to vote on November 6. Among other things, it’s the Catholic thing to do!

Catholic Social Teaching directs Catholics to participate in public life and to exercise our civic duty. In a moment of truthful humor, Pope Francis remarked that, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” He calls us to put aside exclusion, and embrace the common good.

Here are a few questions about our national election that arise out of our faith with its focus on social justice:

With respect to Racism: Will the candidate work to reverse the disenfranchisement of people of color by supporting the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act?

With respect to the Economy: Does the candidate have a plan to undo the damage of the tax law that widens wealth inequality?

With respect to Immigration and Refugees: What has the candidate said about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants or about the separation of families at our border?

With respect to Healthcare: Does the candidate reject efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even while addressing its limitations?

With respect to Gun Violence Prevention: Does the candidate support legislation to ban assault weapons and strengthen background checks?

With respect to Global Peacemaking: Does the candidate support the increase of funding for diplomacy, peace-building and development, while cutting Pentagon spending and nuclear weapons?

With respect to the Environment: Does the candidate support the Paris Climate Agreement and a shift to green energy?

Respect for the First Amendment: Freedom of Religion and Conscience: Does the candidate have a thoughtful position that upholds both religious liberty and our responsibility to others?

These are the major areas roiling our political waters, but these are not the only questions. The Gospel is not our private domain, calling us to holiness without regard for others. In fact and in truth, the Gospel calls each of us to the public square – to dialogue with others who may agree or disagree with us so that we may understand and embrace the common good – the good of all without exception.

~Sister Joan Sobala

Monday, October 15, 2018

Putting Our Possessions in Perspective

Dear Friends,

Money. We earn it. We need it. We want more of it. We share it, or maybe not. Money helps or hinders us in our search for life’s value and meaning.

Take the rich young man that Jesus meets in today’s Gospel. A good man. Still, the rich young man believed that something was missing in his life. He turned to Jesus for insight, and got more than he bargained for, because Jesus pushed him to consider the unthinkable. “Go. Sell what you have and give it to the poor. Then, come follow me.”

The rich young man couldn’t do it. He went away saddened, the Gospel says, but he couldn’t let go of his possessions. All he could do was walk away.

The Word of God is a two-edged sword, we read in Hebrews – today’s second reading. The Word of God was dangerous to the rich young man’s clinging to what he had – a quality he didn’t know was in him until Jesus challenged him.

Having money or even great wealth is not contrary to the Gospel. We have to be very clear about that. It’s the preoccupation with, the clinging to whatever money or possessions we have that is contrary to the Gospel. How hard it is to follow a light, to hear a voice along life’s journey if we are so preoccupied. But it is not impossible. Jesus says that with His God and ours: nothing is impossible.

Avarice, possessiveness, the acquisition of more and better toys are not the prerogative of the wealthy.

No matter what’s in our pocket, its value is defined by the heart.

As the 14th century mystic, Meister Eckhart, pointed out: “where clinging to things ends, there God begins to be.”

These readings invite us to sort out what is really important in our lives and what is not, what we value beyond all else as individuals and as a nation.

We don’t have Jesus before us to challenge us in the same tangible way that he challenged the rich young man, but we do have Jesus and the Spirit of Wisdom described in today’s first reading – the Spirit who enlightens our choices and helps us treat all good things without possessiveness.

“I prayed,” Solomon says, “and prudence was given to me. I pleaded – and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me.”

Would that you and I would be like Solomon. Would that we would pray and plead and be open-handed before God.

~Sister Joan Sobala