Last week in my homily, for “Respect Life Sunday,”
I touched on the duty we have to advocate justice for the unborn,
for the elderly and others who lives are at risk in our country.
This is the pre-eminent moral issue of our time, our bishops have said.
Having said that – and keeping that always in mind –
there are other things deserving our attention with an election near.
One of the things that is so striking in the first reading
is the abundance. There is more than enough for everyone,
and what God provides is first-class.
This calls to mind what our faith teaches us about “social justice.”
I know that term sets some people’s teeth on edge,
but the idea was Catholic long before
some political types tried to make it their own.
It is a Biblical idea: yes, you and I are indeed our brother’s keeper.
This past summer, what did you and I witness?
In some places, people protesting – I mean, actual, peaceful protests –
for the cause of justice, including racial justice.
That is something we can all respect and applaud.
But then we also saw people choosing destruction
and trying to hijack calls for justice in pursuit of violent revolution.
For example, some of these hijackers
have a false notion of “racial justice.”
The late Dr. Martin Luther King said it so beautifully:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day
live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.”
But many people today are saying we’ll never get there,
and they want to keep sorting people by race and other categories.
So you have some colleges that are actually agreeing
to segregate campus activities by race.
Others react with so-called “white nationalism.”
As Catholics, you and I must speak up for the principle of solidarity:
that we are all one human family, created in God’s image.
The Catholic Church in this country has advocated for measures
to ensure working people are treated fairly
and can find their own voice, acting collectively if that is their wish.
We Catholics have pushed for a “safety net” to make sure
everyone has the most basic things. This is why, back in the 1880s,
Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus.
This safety net has included government measures,
but that isn’t what social justice is only or even mainly about.
First and last, it is about our own hearts,
whether you and I are open to others,
despite all the attempts to divide us from each other.
Our human family has God as our generous father,
who demands we imitate that generosity.
That calls to mind another principle of Catholic social teaching,
which is that the good things of this earth, which God created,
were given for the benefit of all people, not just some.
Maybe you’re thinking, OK, fine; how does all this connect
to the election?
Well, I’m asking you to keep these things in mind.
Being a Catholic citizen includes being a voice for equity and solidarity.
Be light, not darkness; choose hope, not cynicism.
What’s not acceptable for a Catholic
is to think only in terms of self-interest –
what’s good for me and mine – and to forget about the common good.
There is a lot of “us and them” talk these days,
and some really want to stoke hostilities:
rural against urban, race against race.
Don’t get sucked into this; push back against it.
Meanwhile we have this hapless figure in the Gospel.
He had been invited to this great party by the King,
but he couldn’t be bothered to make even a little effort.
God gives us so much.
What will God say to us if we don’t make the effort
to help make our society better,
by speaking up for what is right,
by getting involved in positive ways?