Below you will find suggested ways in which the readings for specific Sunday liturgies can lead us into reflections upon our political responsibilities in the weeks immediately preceding the general elections.
23rd Sunday C
Today's readings speak of wisdom in earthly affairs. Wisdom helps us recognize the fleeting nature of material possessions. Wisdom enables us to make our plans carefully, not committing to that which we cannot fulfill. Wisdom also enables us to know how much we do not know, and never to pretend that we do.
As our nation prepares to elect new leaders this year, a prayer for wisdom is in order. The promises that candidates make are many. But as our bishops say in their 2003 document Faithful Citizenship, "Politics in this election year and beyond should be about an old idea with new power--the common good. The central question should not be, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" It should be, "How can ‘we'--all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable--be better off in the years ahead? How can we protect and promote human life and dignity? How can we pursue greater justice and peace?"
24th Sunday C
The readings of today convey the power of repentance and conversion: the Prodigal Son returns, Paul stops killing Christians and becomes one himself, and God turns away from the punishment he was about to inflict on his people.
How do we say the prayer, "God bless America?" In the first Congress, John Adams, responding to a question from one of his colleagues about whether we would succeed in our struggle with Great Britain, said, "Yes -- if we fear God and repent of our sins."
Patriotism is a virtue. A true love of one's country means we work for a spirit of repentance. This has to be reflected in our laws and in our leaders, and in how our policies protect innocent life. Taking part in our national elections is a key way for us to participate in this effort.
25th Sunday C
Paul, in today's Second Reading, urges prayers for all in authority. We are to pray for our national leaders, and we are to pray for those who seek public office, and for the voters who will elect them. Public office is for public service, especially of the poor.
The Biblical concept of the "poor" does not simply mean those with fewer material possessions. It means those who have no defense but God. Public servants exist to carry out the role of government which, as our Declaration of Independence says, is to "secure" the rights "endowed by their Creator." The first such right is life, which is why Pope John Paul II has written, "Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. .." (Christifideles Laici, 38).
26th Sunday C
Today's readings teach us that our relationship with God depends in large measure on how we respond to the needs of other human beings, especially those who are most defenseless. The Rich Man did not go to hell because he was rich, but because he ignored the other man. He may have thought he was right with God, but his failure to respond to a visible, public need ruined whatever private relationship he thought he had with the Lord. The same was true of the people to whom Amos spoke -- and they incurred public punishment for their sins.
Many candidates for public office try to separate their "private faith" from their public role. But the two are inseparable, because the God we worship in private calls us to care for the defenseless in public, starting with the most defenseless, the unborn. In June 2004 the US Bishops said the following in their statement "Catholics in Political Life": "The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices..."
27th Sunday C
Faith has consequences. The just man, because of his faith, shall live (First Reading). What does the just man do in an age of violence as Habakkuk saw, or in a "culture of death," as we see? The just, faithful person lives in hope because he can see beyond the violence. He can look in hope to a culture of life in the future based on a God who loves us in the present.
And the just respond to that love by loving one another. This love is translated into concrete action to build a better society. We speak up for justice, and for the right to life. We work to elect leaders who will protect life. And after all the striving and the toil, we say, "We have only done our duty." Public officials are called to do the same. Standing up for the right to life is part of the very job description of public service.
28th Sunday C
The Syrian (First Reading) and the Samaritan (Gospel) see the saving power of the God of Israel. This salvation has been opened to all nations in Jesus Christ (Second Reading).
The Founding Fathers of this nation were Christian men who came to this nation to find the freedom to worship Christ without interference from government authority. Patrick Henry wrote, "This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed."
As we prepare for our national elections, we remind ourselves that our loyalty to Christ, and the good of our nation, requires that we take an active part in the political process. While membership in a political party is legitimate, our loyalty must always be to Christ and his teachings above all.
29th Sunday C
We are called to pray, especially for our leaders and for those who, in these days, seek our vote for public office. Prayer is not magic. It is not a sugar-coating placed over whatever set of beliefs or practices we want to have. Prayer, rather, means union with God -- a union which is expressed in words because it flows from our very life.
We are to pray for Godly leaders -- that is, those who understand that there is a higher law than that passed by human governments, and that no government can authorize acts like abortion that completely contradict the law of God. Alexander Hamilton, one of the signers of the Constitution, wrote, "[T]he law...dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this."
30th Sunday C
Sirach tells us that God "hears the cry of the oppressed." He heard the cry of his people being oppressed in Egypt and sent Moses to deliver them. He heard the cry of his people being oppressed by sin, and sent Christ to deliver them.
He also hears the cry of the unborn, and to deliver them he sends us. Among the many ways we exercise deliverance of the poor and weak is to elect leaders who will in fact protect their rights by law. While law is not the only answer and politics is not our salvation, it is nevertheless one of our duties as Christians to be good citizens. In his encyclical letter on the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II writes, "Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of "new heavens" and "a new earth" (Rev 21:1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today. I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n.20).
31st Sunday C
The readings today emphasize God's pro-active love for the lowly, the defenseless, the sinner. Nothing has to exist. It all exists because of God's love. Nobody has to be redeemed. Redemption is given to us freely, as it was given to Zaccheus.
And as Zaccheus illustrates, there is a response on our part. Our gratitude is shown in concrete acts of solidarity with others, above and beyond the call of duty.
As we approach our national elections, let's show our gratitude for this nation, and for our freedom, by exercising the right and duty to vote. As our bishops wrote in Living the Gospel of Life, "We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life..." (n. 34).