Faith Should Always Trump Politics

Posted on August 4, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, August 9, 2015, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Street signs showing intersection of Faith and Politics.Presidential election politics are heating up and, unbelievably, the election is over a year away! It would be easy to become overloaded as this period of time passes by. As I am writing this, I think at least twenty-four people are running for President of the United States. Wow! But if you are a political junkie, you may be in heaven. You might be glued to twenty-four-hour news channels on your television every night, and to talk radio in your car every day. Whatever your current involvement in the political landscape, you have to admit that it is close to impossible to tune it all out completely. The reality is that you shouldn’t want to do that either.

In the USCCB document on a Catholic’s political responsibility, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the US Bishops state that we have a moral obligation to participate in political life, since responsible citizenship is a virtue. The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us that we are all called to participate in promoting the common good. We have these obligations placed on us, not just because we are American citizens, but primarily because we are baptized disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in all we do. In this reality, we find what must be our true motivation for political involvement.

However, especially during presidential election years, many of us trade our Christian convictions for political ones. People begin with a calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but in the end define themselves as more Republicans or Democrats at heart. Politics is not a faith. I have had friends over the years trade their trust in God for trust in a candidate. No political candidate has all the answers or a map detailing the route to a promised land. However, as mature disciples we are obligated to participate in a political process because the One who does provide all the answers has saved us: Jesus Christ.

So often, those who find themselves having substituted politics for genuine discipleship have done so because they have not been fully formed in their faith. The Forming Consciences document points out that a Catholic working to influence public policy and bring about justice in society is required to have a mind and heart that is fully educated and formed to know and practice the entirety of the Catholic faith. It can be easier for us to place politics, or materialism, wealth, or power for that matter, ahead of our faith when we are not well-catechized or transformed intentional disciples. Our faith must provide the lens through which we see all things, including politics. Politics should never be the lens through which we see our faith.

The readings for this Sunday and recent Sundays present to us a God that provides all we need. Whether it is manna in the desert for the Israelites, a hearth cake and water jug for Elijah, or the living Bread of Life for you and me, God provides for us what we need. God is in control and we are invited to place our trust in him. Some will take this truth and distort it to end up with justification for not becoming politically active. These distorters of the message may even proclaim that what happens in the political world has no bearing on them because they are citizens of the kingdom of God. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is this: as Catholics and mature disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a message to share with all in our society that has the power to transform our communities and the way those communities are governed. That message is rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ and it has the power to free the oppressed, provide hospitality for the disenfranchised, and console the afflicted. Those who have ears to hear it, and who allow it to transform their lives, will give voice to the voiceless, provide nourishment for those who hunger and thirst, and will construct systems that ensure the God-given rights of all. God will provide if we keep clear the pathways that lead to grace. And no political construct can be allowed to compromise the integrity and primacy of this message.

So, dive into the political year! Go into it not primarily as Democrat, Republication, or Independent. Go into it as an intentional disciple that bears good news, and make sure you come out of it next November with your faith still intact and placing your trust in the God who delivers us from all evil, and saves us from all that works against his word, sometimes even ourselves.

What better way to involve ourselves in the political process than by praying? Follow this link to a resource from the USCCB on Praying Like a Faithful Citizen.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

Father, we praise you and thank you for your most precious gifts of human life and human freedom.

Touch the hearts of our lawmakers with the wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights and religious liberty for all. Protect all people from being forced to violate their moral and religious convictions.

In your goodness, guard our freedom to live out our faith and to follow you in all that we do. Give us strength to be bold and joyful witnesses.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.
-Prayer for Protection of Conscience Rights, copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

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Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Posted on July 29, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

ChurchFor too long we have allowed our faith to be a component of our lives, rather than the lens through which we see all aspects of our life. This has led to a presentation of Church as a place where we spend part of our Sunday and sometimes volunteer some time. In fact, we are Church, and that reality does not change for six days of the week. We are Church 24/7. And the proclamation of the Good News on a Sunday serves only to strengthen us to proclaim that Good News the other six days of the week.

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Hunger in the Desert

Posted on July 28, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, August 2, 2015, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The author in the Negev Desert in Israel.There it is! Right outside my window. I’m here in the Negev Desert of Israel. It’s possible that Moses and the chosen people walked in this area a few thousand years ago. Right now at 4:30 PM, the temperature is 103.6 degrees in the shade. Just two weeks ago, at about this time of day, we went for a ride in the desert. Travel books recommend drinking a quart of water an hour, if walking. Our water bottles were full. Our hats were on. Our desert shoes were ready if we needed to walk for a better view. We were about two hours out when roaring up and over a mound, we landed with a jolt. We were up to the hubcaps in a bed of loose sand. The car quit.

I trekked up the trace of the road and saw camel tracks in the sand. No other vehicles in sight. Our two guides were working on the car and got it started. We sipped our water. Everything, including the water, was hot! They dug the tires clear and laid canvas behind them. Three of us pushed as one steered backwards… back and back until he cleared the mound. The motor was hot! All of our drinking water went into the radiator.

Evening shadows began creeping over the desert. We were warned not to go out into the desert at night. Snakes and scorpions come out after dark. There was great relief and many “alleluias” when we got back to home base.

Reflecting on this and looking at the desert in front of me, I marvel over Moses leading the chosen people through these wildernesses. As I look around, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to eat out there. Desiccated acacia trees dot the landscape, along with thorny scrub. Can humans eat wood? Are the weeds edible? There are so many thorns!

While there is a little green at the edge of a wadi, no water is visible this time of the year. How deep would we have to dig to find some? Our small group could have survived until morning, but what about the multitude with Moses? Had I lived in those days, I would have been one of the complainers wanting to go back!

God was marvelously compassionate as he listened to all the groaning rising up from that desert. Instead of losing patience with them and sending punishment, God gave the grumblers new signs of love… bread, but only enough for the day. Still the complaints pierced the heavens. God sent quail. Yes, there are quail here even now. About three families rush across our roads, chicks all aflutter. In spring, the migrations are superabundant. God is so generous! He gave them meat as well as bread.

God had worked mightily to free these people from slavery. But they forgot about all of that. God has worked mighty works—mighty works—to save us! But we forget! Most of us don’t have the opportunity to live in the desert, but sometimes, in our hearts, we walk in a very arid place. We lose hope because it is so dry, so empty. We thirst for love. We hunger for the bread of appreciation and success. We may even want to give up in our forward progress to the Promised Land. We complain. It is too hard. I want consolation. I want rewards for my struggles. I want to return to the fleshpots of old, easier ways. We grumble and grouse. God never loses patience. Infinite compassion is God’s name. But just as God gave food for the day to the Israelites, God gives us what we need for the day. We even pray as Jesus taught us, “Give us this day!” That food is God’s very self. What more could we want?

Jesus tells the hungering crowd of his day that he himself is the bread of life. In their desert, he promised they would never hunger, they would never thirst. But what food was Jesus talking about? What drink? The crowd had experienced physical food and an easy handout. Their hands were stretched out for more of that! They wanted the security that their ancestors wanted. Long-term security! Not just for today!

Jesus himself struggled with this temptation. “Turn these stones into bread,” the evil one suggested. “Satisfy your hunger.” “Go back to the fleshpots of Egypt.” But, no, he resisted. He trusted his beloved Father would take care of him. Jesus moved forward in his desert in trust, in faith. He wants us to take that same leap of faith. He wants us to “believe in the one he [God] sent.”

Am I in a desert? What do I hunger for? What do I thirst for? Can I trust that God himself is the only satisfaction for those yearnings?

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB

PRAYER

I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my refuge is the LORD,
and he has become my savior.
This is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were drowned in the Red Sea.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.
In your great majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
you loosed your wrath to consume them like stubble…

In your love you led the people you redeemed;
in your strength you guided them to your holy dwelling…

You brought them in, you planted them
on the mountain that is your own—
The place you made the base of your throne, LORD,
the sanctuary, LORD, your hands established.
May the LORD reign forever and ever!

—Exodus 15:1b-7, 13, 17-18. Scripture text taken from the NABRE © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 CCD, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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