November 20: A Challenge Far Greater than Politics

There is an old adage that “sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” Who we are, deep down, is indeed revealed by how we respond to winning or losing, giving our best effort or quitting, and working together or aiming for our own glory. We can say much the same about politics. We have seen some obvious things ­that have been revealed by the most recent election – the polarization in our country, the lack of charity, and the lack of civility in how we talk about our differences. What has also been revealed are the struggles that our political leaders seem to have in working together and compromising for the common good. An important question today is “what will be revealed about our hearts and the heart of our nation in the weeks and months to come?” Who are we and why? How do we see justice, how do we see what a good life is or what the best way is for us to live and work together?

In so many ways, we have been convinced that “rugged individualism” is central to the American way, that we have no necessary relationships with others, and that our only obligation is to pursue our own desires. Is it true, though, that we must be totally free to define our own happiness, and that nothing should stand in the way of how we want to live? Let’s remember that we did not and do not create ourselves. To be human is to be a “creature,” to be created. We are born into families and communities, we have relatives and histories. We are not isolated individuals. We have a basic need to be loved and cared for and we have a basic need to love and care for others. We are made “to belong” and to be in relationships — with other people, with the world we live in, and with our Creator. Our country’s founders insisted that democracy cannot be maintained without religion and the virtues and values that religion brings, especially the virtues of personal discipline and the values of family and community. We have inherited a commitment to equality and human rights; we have no foundation apart from the belief in a Creator who endows us with inalienable rights.

Let’s remember also that our duty as Catholics remains bigger than politics. We are here to serve God and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of His Kingdom. We do that first by living faithfully as Jesus teaches us to live, even when His commandments and priorities for our lives are not popular or are opposed by our culture and society. The most important thing we can do right now as Catholics in America is to strengthen and share our faith, with joy and with confidence. May we be deliberate and vigilant about passing on this story — our Catholic way of life — to our friends and neighbors, to our children, and to the next generations. We do this, in large part, by serving others with sacrifice and love, by caring for the elderly and vulnerable, by helping parents and their children, by helping families to grow and thrive.

Again, this project (which is also a challenge) is far greater than politics. But this is what we are here for. And if we live our faith with generous and grateful hearts, we can renew the soul of our nation. We really can! And, soon, it will be revealed if we are serious about the challenge before us.

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