Election Homily (2016)

Lost in all the wonderful news about the Chicago Cubs these days was this story from the Wall Street Journal: “An overwhelming majority of voters are disgusted with the state of American politics. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are seen by a majority of voters as unlikely to bring the country back together after this bitter election season. Eight in 10 voters say the campaign has left them repulsed rather than excited.”

I have to admit I am one of those people who can’t wait until Tuesday. As a person of faith, I’m not sure why or how this election has become so sad. But I’d like to think we can do something about it.

Journalists David Brooks and E.J. Dionne recently offered a pretty good analysis of what’s going on. They noted that when religious voices leave the public square, we are all worse off for it. There is so little conversation about the virtues of sacrifice and suffering, or what sin is, redemption in this election, in this society. And maybe that’s why we feel so empty. There’s no sustained talk about God. No theology. The other side is just bad and wrong. No dialogue, no listening, no trying to see another point of view.

E.J. Dione made a point that throughout the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s, Martin Luther King spoke in terms of praying for conversion of hearts, offering forgiveness to his oppressors, of the value of redemptive suffering.

David Brooks said this: “There is no uplift in this race. There is an entire absence in both campaigns of any effort to appeal to the higher angels of our nature. There is an assumption in both campaigns that we are self-seeking creatures rather than loving, serving, hoping, dreaming, cooperating creatures. There is a presumption in both candidates that the lowest motivations are the most real. At some point, there will have to be a new vocabulary and a restored worldview which emphasizes love, friendship, faithfulness, solidarity, and neighborliness that pushes people toward connection rather than distrust.”

We know all about that vocabulary. For we, as a faith community, believe in love, friendship, solidarity, the value of community. Look at the Gospel today.  Sadducees are fixated on dying; Jesus is focused on living in solidarity. The Sadducees deny there is resurrection; Jesus will bring millions together by rising from the dead. The Sadducees are trapped by affairs of this life; Jesus speaks of “the children of God … who will rise.”

We know in our hearts that this type of election discourse is not what Jesus’ taught, or what our church teaches. That winning an election – presidency, congress, senate, or alderman – is not more important than treating your political opponent with respect and dignity. That negative ads, name-calling, and hatred are not of the good spirit.  For we believe we are all created – Democrats, Republicans and Independents — in the image and likeness of God. We are all brothers and sisters. That should always be our starting point.

Bruce Springsteen, who was raised a Catholic in the 50’s but – like some people we may know — left the faith later in life, knows well the language of our faith.  He has said that once a Catholic, you are always a Catholic. It’s how you think and speak. And for him, it’s the language – sin, grace, redemption, suffering, sorrow, salvation – that best describes what it means to be human.  We can hear it in his songs.

That language is how we make sense of the world as well. And my big insight these last few weeks was that I’m not hearing it enough. Perhaps you feel the same.

Imagine, then, if we all decide to be a voice of hope, to speak the language that is missing in our society these days.  That we are going to gently let others know that it’s OK to say that our faith is important to us. That we believe in grace, in forgiveness – and we can talk about it — even in a landscape that appears to have forgotten about religion, decency or morality. That after the elections on Tuesday, we can be a voice of healing on Wednesday — at school, at work, at the gym. Let’s tell everyone again about the Year of Mercy, and what it really means in our world.

On Tuesday your vote is important, but that shouldn’t determine your happiness. Vote with your conscience, but act like a disciple. We chose a president every four years, but we gather here once a week. We need to be reminded of that.

So, let us feel confident today – with the help of the Holy Spirit — to go forth and be the voice of God in a society which so desperately needs to hear about peace and hope.



2 thoughts on “Election Homily (2016)

  1. Sally Hogarty

    Thank you so much for this beautiful homily. It certainly reminds us of what is truly important. I hope to remember your words on Wednesday.


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