We’ve closed the Holy Doors on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with opportunity anew to open the doors of our hearts to mercy this Advent season, which begins Nov. 27. Let the rancorous politicking stop so that we may contemplate Christ in prayer and in our interactions with the people who cross our paths.
We, the people of the United States, have been anything but united this past year. Those of us who call ourselves Christians do not always project Christ-like behavior toward one another. Condemnation of one another’s stances on issues is growing in this post-election period. People who voted for President-elect Donald Trump believe their prayers have been answered and people who voted for Hilary Clinton believe their prayers have not. Why can’t we sacrifice a bit of our pride to work together to establish common ground, which is a first step in working toward the common good?
Until we do so, we’re destined to wallow in animosity and hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center is tallying incidents of hate on its website (www.splcenter.org/ reporthate). More than 700 incidents of hateful harassment have been reported since the Nov. 8 presidential election.
A college student told her father, a diocesan employee, that she saw a man point his finger at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab (head covering) and tell her that she was going to be sent out of the country. A pastor of a parish with a large Hispanic presence said Latino teenagers who are American citizens have been calling him because they are afraid they will be deported.
Maybe it’s too easy to blame social media for fueling animosity, but a quick scan of Facebook feeds, Tweets, Internet websites and comment posts provide proof. One of the first acts of mercy we should exercise this Advent season is to respond to such posts with respectful counterpoints.
Our Catholic leaders call us back to the message of Christ, to love one another, our neighbors and our enemies and to reach out to individuals most in need of physical, spiritual and emotional sustenance. Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a strategic plan that seeks to offer “a sustained and compelling witness to the power of Christ’s love in the world. ‘Through this work, we will encounter our brothers and sisters wherever they may be along life’s journey, offer them love and support, and in turn, meet Jesus himself who will fortify each one of us for our own journey.’”
What concrete steps can we take to offer a “sustained and compelling witness to the power of Christ’s love in the world?” For starters, how about offering parish-hosted dinners where parishioners can talk with each other about what matters to them? That’s the suggestion of theology professor Zach Flanagin of St. Mary’s College, in Moraga, Calif., quoted in a recent Catholic News Service story. Dinner guests might not agree with each other, but they may be more likely to respect the other person, the professor said.
Father Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, shares his wisdom about “Civility in Dialogue” in the Franciscan Action Network blog “Acting Franciscan.” The priests suggests that we facilitate a forum for difficult discourse, which can lead to new insight and mutual understanding; respect the dignity of all people, especially those who hold an opposing view; use a “vocabulary of faith” to unite and reconcile; neutralize inflamed conversation; collaborate with others; identify common ground; and support efforts to clean up provocative language.
We must also remain engaged in the public square, remain vigilant and hold elected officials accountable. Speak truth to power. Ask hard questions. That’s love of country, that’s patriotism.
Jesse Manibusan composed the song “Open My Eyes” which contains a stanza: “Open my heart, Lord. Help me to love like you. Open my heart, Lord. Help me to love.” Advent offers us an opportunity to open the doors of our hearts to love for one another, and to accept that our “opponents” care as much about the well-being of the world as we do.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor