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Yesterday, voters in the United States elected a new President, following an election campaign that many have suggested is unlike any we have seen before. Whatever else one can say, this election has ignited strong negative feelings, including the expressed view of some that neither major party candidate is worthy of election.  It has also included some of the most divisive and ugly commentary I have seen in a major campaign in my lifetime.

Whoever one supported yesterday, and whether one woke up this morning (or went to bed last night) elated or depressed, we are all invited to reflect on where we have been and where we go from here as people of faith living in a broken world. What is our role in the current political and social system? How do we stay centered in our faith amidst the political turmoil of our times?

Those are the questions I invited some colleagues to address with me at our Mid-Day Dialogue of faith today.  In a gathering of 50+ students, faculty, staff and alumni, I and my law school colleagues Tom Berg, Teresa Collett and Mark Osler shared some initial thoughts and then engaged in dialogue with those present.  The four of us represent different parties, different faiths and different genders.

You can access a recording of the Mid-Day Dialogue here or stream it from the icon below.  (The podcast runs for 55:19.)  I hope you will find it a prompt to your own thoughts of the role of people of faith in healing our wounded world.

 

Nothing original today.  Instead, I thought I would share Fr. Jim Martin’s Election Day prayer:

God, I know that I don’t have to get angry.

I don’t have to get worked up.
I don’t have to get depressed.
I just have to use my conscience and vote.
So help me to remember
what Jesus taught in the Gospels,
and what our church teaches,
especially about the unborn, the poor,
the refugee, the migrant,
the sick, the homeless,
the disabled, the hungry,
the elderly and the lonely.
Help me to remember the “least” among us,
and help me ponder in my heart
how to cast my vote for the good of all.
God, I know that no candidate is perfect,
because I’m not perfect either,
the last time I checked.
So free me of the burden of having to
vote for someone who satisfies
all my desires for a candidate.
My candidate will be imperfect,
like me.
Help me to be grateful for the ability to vote,
because not everyone has that privilege.
Help me to be at peace after I vote, too.
And when I meet people voting for someone else,
Help me to take a deep breath and
give them the benefit of the doubt,
because they are following their consciences, too.
Help me to remember
that even though they sometimes drive me nuts,
I don’t have to argue with them,
I don’t have to convince them,
I don’t have to hate them,
And I don’t have to demonize them.
Then, after the election, help me work for unity.
Because I know that’s what you want.
Amen.

Let us all pray on this election day for healing of our divisions and for peace in our hearts and in our world.

I lead weekly Thursday morning lovingkindness meditations at the University of St. Thomas.  I vary the form of the meditation from week to week.

This morning, I walked into the meditation room after spending a few minutes reading political posts of one sort or another online.  That prompted me to guide the meditation in a way different than I had before, a way that seemed appropriate in this last week before our presidential election.

After settling ourselves, I started (as these meditations traditionally start) by asking the participants to call to mind someone who easily evokes feelings of love and warmth in them.  Using  a traditional formulation of wishes, we expressed the wish toward those persons:

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body in mind.
May you be at ease and happy.

At that point I veered off the normal progression of the objects of the meditation to ask the participants to visualize, in a single picture, images of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  To see them, notwithstanding their flaws, as individuals made in God’s image who need love and compassion.  To, without preference, extend to them the same wishes we extend toward those we more easily love.

After a while, we moved to a series of other visualization:

– in a single picture, images of two friends acquaintances, one of whom is a Trump supporter and another of whom is a Clinton supporter

– in a single picture, images of Black Lives matter protesters and police accused of excessive use of force

– in a single picture, an image of Palestinians and Israelis

I added a few more, and, in each case, we extended the same wishes we extended toward those we love.

You get the idea and the point is pretty clear.  We live in a wounded world, a world of so many divisions.  And in that world, we are called to an agapic love that is universal and that desires the well-being of the other regardless of their behavior.

I’m not saying we can’t have preferences among candidates – clearly we all do and our votes should express those preferences.  But we are also called to recognize that each of us – notwithstanding our flaws – is made in God’s image.  And should be a recipient of our love and compassion.

 

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints, a day on which we honor all of the saints who have gone before us.

Some of my friends who are not Catholic are uncomfortable with saints, a discomfort that often stems from the mistaken fear that Catholics put saints on a par with God, or a nervousness that Catholics feel that they need the saints to occupy a place between them and God.  Neither is the case.  Catholic neither worship saints nor believe they need them to speak to God on their behalf.

Rather, saints give us examples that illuminate our paths.  In words Pope Benedict XVI once used, “the saints bring to light in creative fashion quite new human potentialities” and are “Christian constellations, in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected.”  They show us something of what it means to be disciples of Christ, the hands and feet of God.

On this day of celebration of the saints, I give thanks both for the “big league” saints who sit front and center in my visualization of the communion of saints (the likes of Vincent de Paul, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, John the Baptist), and for the “lesser” saints, those who have simply lived the life God asked them to live. Those who by their simplicity and their humility inspire me in both thought and deed.

Who do you give thanks for this day? Spend some time in your silent prayer giving thanks for those who have gone before you, for those who inspire you in a special way.

Today’s Gospel from Luke is one that I love:  Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. We all remember the story:

Here is Zacchaeus – a short man who can’t even see above the crowds. He is unpopular, not what we think of as a good person. This is not someone who is on the guest list of most people’s dinner parties. Most people want nothing to do with him. Those who don’t think him vile simply view him as unimportant. So Zacchaeus is perched up in a tree trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus.

Jesus sees Zacchaeus up there and calls out, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  What Jesus really says is: My dear, dear Zacchaeus, it doesn’t matter to me that you are a tax collector and that you are unpopular. I still want to be with you. I want to be your friend.  Indeed, I must be your friend.

And what impact do Jesus’ words have on Zacchaeus?  Zacchaeus practically bounds out of the tree with joy and promises to give half of his possessions to the poor and make recompense to all he has cheated.

Jesus didn’t wait for Zacchaeus to do some good things before approaching him. Rather he shows love to Zacchaeus first, and the recognition of that love leads to Zacchaeus’ response.

God loves us first.  That is a truth we must grasp.  God’s love doesn’t depend on what we do or don’t do.  God’s love is first and always.

It is grasping that fundamental truth that changes everything.

My friend Dianne Schlichting often uses poetry as a means of both processing and expressing her experience.  Here is a poem she shared this morning to express her anguish at what she has been seeing in the media and in our society these past months.  With her permission, I gratefully offer it here for your reflection.

Crucify! Crucify!

What kind of people
Are we becoming?
What is it about us
That we are drawn
To the crucifixions of others
Whose sins are sensationalized,
Magnified daily in our media, social outlets,
And in our conversations?

We have become mobs,
Bloodhounds seeking
Our next meal, seeking the next
Delicious piece of red meat.

Why do we so enjoy,
Watching public humiliations,
Suffering, ridicule, and others’
Pain on display?

Why do we continue to shout,
“Give us Barabbas, and
Crucify, crucify the other!”

We have become consumers of
Other people’s painful journeys into transformation;
We forget that we are all sinners, that
We all fall short.

Pharisees, we attend our churches
Praying, “Thank you, God, that I am
Not like that sinner.”
We point fingers, judge, and
Become the other’s jury and executioners;
We act out of hate and vengeance—why?

Who has wronged us to such a degree that we feel the need to crucify?
We are disappointed and angry, but
Why do we point fingers outward?
Have we personally worked
At creating places of harmony,
Understanding, consensus, and
Love?
Do we try to be compassionate human beings,
Or do we allow our feelings to erect walls of separation?

Crowds followed Jesus to His death
Jeering, screaming for blood.
Have we learned nothing in all these years—
We who call ourselves Christians—
Have we not understood His message
Of forgiveness, hope, and love?
Do we not know who we are or
Who we are called to be?

The ultimate question we need to answer:
Are we people who crucify or
Are we people who sit together at Eucharist?
That is the choice before us today.

Sacramental Principle

We began our University of St. Thomas Center for Ministry staff meeting yesterday by watching a video clip of Michael Himes talking about sacramentality as a (rather, the) central Catholic principle that, among other things, undergirds the efforts of Catholic universities to educate their students.

Himes suggests that the sacramental principle the heart of the Catholic understanding of the Christian traditions.  He explains the sacramental principle in this way:

If something is always and everywhere the case, it must be noticed, accepted and celebrated somewhere sometimes.  What is always true must be noticed as true at a particular time and in a particular place.  Thus in creation, all of which is grounded in grace, those points – persons, things, places, events actions – which cause us to notice the presence of grace are what we speak of as sacraments.  What can be sacramental?  Anything?  How many sacraments are there?  As many as there are things in existence in the universe.

Those of us formed by an Ignatian spirituality often talk about finding God in all things. And that is what Himes is getting at – the idea that if we truly behold what is really there  – that is, of we see and more fully what really is rather than as we expect, hope, fear or desire – what we will find is the infinite presence and power of grace.

 

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