October 21, 2016
"Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace;
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all."
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I think this verse from our Mass readings today is so pertinent with the presidential election drawing so close to an end. This election season has revealed (read: shoved in our faces) how divided our country is, and also the evils that breed within these divides. It's easy to dehumanize others, especially the candidates, when they are not on your team, and even more than that, when they are dehumanizing others so clearly.
A moment of unity, no matter how feigned, brought to light the truth of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's humanity at the Al Smith dinner the other night, with Cardinal Dolan sitting between them. I'm sure the Cardinal got a lot of flack for this decision, but, as Fr. Sebastian pointed out today at Mass, the church's job is to shepherd souls, to teach us to "read the signs of the present age," the spiritual signs of the age, to help us see with distinctively divine and not earthly eyes. It's the Cardinal's job to help us see with the eyes of Christ, and not the eyes of the world.
Even just this gesture of the three sitting together softened my heart towards the humanity of each candidate (albeit, however begrudgingly, and not without a critical lens into motivations behind the arrangement). It made me think of how Jesus ate with the tax collectors and other folks that were both very powerful and very corrupt, but only because He saw in them something that no one else saw: their souls, with the eyes of love. It's a lot harder to dehumanize someone when you admit that Jesus wants a relationship with them just as much as He longs for a relationship with you. Of course, we should be critical with who we vote for, but we should be inclusive in our view towards others, acknowledging the unity of Christ in that He died out of pure, intense love of each one of us.
But... let's just be real. This is really, really difficult to cultivate, especially in such a media-saturated culture where humans are commodified into near oblivion. The commodifying goes both ways, though, which I am just figuring out as I sit here and reflect. The more we see media representations of people as commodities and talking heads, the more comfortable we become as consumers, judges, Pharisees, of these people. As I sit here writing this in my bed after watching late night comedy sketches about the candidates, I'm thinking about how I, too, have fell into the swarm of feeling righteous by opposing who seems to be the obvious "lesser of two evils," when my biggest duty as a Christian is to not just cast my vote on one day with a pure conscience, but rather, to love others each day in the way that Christ taught, to view others with His eyes and not my own.
The "unity of spirit" that St. Paul tells us to cultivate is not the human unity of spirit, but rather, one that originates from God in perfect communion. We can cultivate this unity when we acknowledge our unity of being completely dependent on God for everything, down to life itself, no matter what our position in the world.
I think a way we can practically cultivate this sense of unity is through praying for our country and our presidential candidates, and watching less news and talk shows (mainly talking to myself here... I don't know what your media consumption is like). As Election Day draws near, it seems fitting to pray for divine mercy for our country's future and for the souls of all those who either serve or seek public office.