On Wednesday, I told the CCD kids about my next door neighbor who told her son, “Tell the truth, God is watching!” Today’s message is one of living the truth…because God is watching! The Jewish teacher, Hillel, who may have still been alive when Jesus was born wrote, “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole Torah.” It reminds me of Romans 13:10, “Love does no evil to thy neighbor; hence, to love is to fulfill the law.”
That’s what Moses, tells the Israelites today. He says, “Hey, don’t give the immigrants a hard time–you were an immigrant once too! Don’t take that person’s cloak, their shoes, their blanket–it’s all they’ve got! Give the widows and orphans, foster and homeless youth, single mothers, the poor, the elderly, and others on the edge, a break! Their life is hard enough!
It makes me sick to hear about those who harass and harm runaways and homeless. Their life is fragile and broken enough. And the unborn babies thrown away as though they were garbage–it’s disgusting, and all of it must stop. My brothers and sisters, our culture is sick. We’re losing our love and our decency, and God is watching. Our selfishness, greed, and vanity turns us away from others and has us looking only at ourselves. Moses says, if you wrong them, God is going to hear about it, and God is going to be heated. God says, “My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with a sword!” Yikes! I think we better pay close attention to how much God loves the most vulnerable and decide whether we’re a friend of God or not. We need to decide whose side we’re on–choose God’s.
As we look through the propositions on the ballot we ask ourselves, what lasting effect will this have on the most vulnerable, on the environment? Does this policy help those with wealth get more wealthy, or does it strip away the only cloak that a man has? We must appreciate that our public policy is either aligned with God’s kingdom or is at odds with it, and we have an opportunity in this country to vote and pass laws that make our country and world a better place for everyone–not just the fortunate few.
I think we need to seriously question our own view, but also the attitudes or view of the company we keep, and especially about those who lead our country. Whose side are they on? Are they on God’s side? When we sit down at our table and vote we should write down the Great Commandment on a sticky note: Love God with all my heart. Love my neighbor as myself. Jesus tells us that “On these commandments hang all the laws and the prophets.” All laws boil down to just one: Love. Period.
I think the key is found in the last line of the first reading, “If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” Compassion is defined as, “feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others.” But it’s much deeper than that. The root word of compassion is “passion,” and passion comes from the latin root “pati” which means “to suffer.” The passion of Christ is about Jesus’ love and willingness to suffer for us. The prefix “com” means “with.” You know, like when Portuguese people have pão com manteiga. So to have com-passion is to suffer with another.
The compassionate person doesn’t just see another in pain, he actually enters into that pain. He shares that pain. And because he shares their pain, he is moved to do something about it! If I see someone step on your toe, I might say, “Oooh! Too bad for you.” But if someone steps on my toe, I move it! Moses tells the people on behalf of God, if your neighbor cries out to me, I will hear him!” Because God is compassionate, God suffers with him. And God does something about it…remember that whole “sword thing.” God is not indifferent. God cares about how his people treat others.
When Catholics vote we want to focus on the love of God, the people that God loves, and the policies that affect them. Jesus loves the world and all who are in it. He gave his life for every soul…every soul. Those outside the womb and those still in it, the free and the brave, as well as the incarcerated and the timid. Jesus suffered and died out of love for the homeless, the hopelessly addicted, the single mother, and the family that has it all together and says their prayers every night. Jesus died for them all, and we’re called to create a just society for them all. When we talk about loving our neighbor we must be mindful of St. Pope John Paul II, whose feast day we just celebrated this past Thursday, he said, “Love wills the good of another.”
If we love our neighbor we desire what is good for him. If we love our neighbor, we cannot be indifferent to his suffering. If we have a choice about which policies to pass, we vote for those propositions that do the most good for the most vulnerable. And when we vote for people who pass laws, we must vote for those who are on the side of Love.
I once heard that I should insert my name into 1COR 13 to see if it’s true of me, “Steve is patient, Steve is kind.” I think it would be a good practice to put the presidential candidates in there as well, and see if it’s true. “____ is patient, ____ is kind, ____ is not jealous, ____ is not pompous, ____ is not inflated, ____ is not rude, ____ does not seek his own interests, ____ is not quick-tempered, ____ does not brood over injury, ____ does not rejoice over wrongdoing, ____ rejoices with the truth.”
There are no perfect policies, politicians, or parties, but there are better policies, better politicians, and parties that better reflect the will and love of God. Choose those so that His kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
“We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.” – Pope Francis, 9/16/13