Absent travel plans that typically accompany the Thanksgiving holiday, our November calendar looks pitifully bare. With health officials warning against large gatherings, I suspect it’s not so different from that of many families across the country.
Yet, unlike families who have lost a loved one during the past year, empty places at our holiday table are temporary, a reminder to keep things in perspective. Reflecting on the rising death toll from the pandemic reminds us that we are part of a larger family, one that transcends physical boundaries, time and, yes, even political parties.
It so happens that the deadline for this column is Nov. 3. However, by the time this issue of The Catholic Virginian reaches your mailbox, the outcome of national, state and local elections will be history. Needless to say, some folks will be disappointed, while others will be celebrating.
So, on a more personal note, the real question is: how are you doing? A few questions we might ask ourselves are:
Am I being respectful of those whose ideology differs from mine?
Am I willing to adapt a more constructive approach to reconciling differences, or will negative emotions cloud my appreciation for our common humanity?
Do I continue to pray for those in leadership, even those against whom I voted?
More importantly, do I believe that God can change hearts on both sides of the aisle?
Remember that Saul became an apostle after seeking to imprison and put Christians to death. In more recent times, there are numerous stories of professionals in the abortion industry who had a change of heart and now add their voices to the pro-life movement.
The moral compass of both political parties needs adjusting, which will happen only through prayer, dialogue and mutual respect. The adage: “More flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar” was a favorite of St. Francis de Sales and is worth remembering when confronting people with different points of view.
Regardless of whether you’re pleased with or disappointed by the outcome of the elections, we can prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving by reflecting not only on blessings received, but on challenges that have invited and continue to invite us to be kinder, more patient and more prayerful.
To love God with all our heart is not just about knowing what the Church teaches, but to know, love and serve God. Knowledge of God has little to do with ordinary reason, but with our highest spiritual faculties. It’s a form of recognition that draws us to God, who is love.
Pointing to the sins of others rather than acknowledging our own sins adds to our culpability while blinding us to the presence of God in ourselves and in others. When I focus on the faults and failings of others, my indignation quickly leads to anger and feelings of self-righteousness. Neither can co-exist with love because love is not a feeling; it’s decision that should motivate everything we do as St. Paul explained:
“Now I will show you the way that surpasses all the others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong; a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and, with full knowledge comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I have to the poor and hand over my body to be burned and have not love, I gain nothing.
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure” (1 Cor 13: 1-7).
Paul’s definition of love is a good barometer that measures how we’re doing. If the best we can do today is thank God that the election and all the campaign ads are over, that’s a start. Next, we can ask for forgiveness, which we all need, and then gather for Eucharist, knowing that “my knowledge is imperfect now,” but one day “I shall know even as I am known” (1 Cor 13; 12b).
Therefore, as we continue the journey, we can give thanks, knowing that with God’s grace, seeming obstacles become steppingstones that help us to become the people God is calling us to be.