How Do We Respond To The Current Political Situation?
Several weeks ago during a homily I referenced Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal article “In Trump’s Washington, Nothing Feels Stable.” I was particularly struck by her clarity in describing people’s feelings surrounding politics, “Everyone’s political views are now emotions and everyone now wears their emotions on their faces. People are speaking more loudly and quickly than usual.” We all recognize that many are wearing their political views as emotions on their faces. How do we respond to the current political situation? The same way in which we are to deal with any conflicting situation regarding our neighbor.
Leviticus 19, this Sunday’s first reading, exhorts, “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” The word holy literally means to be set apart, to be different. This difference includes not merely our worship of the one God, who has revealed himself completely in Jesus, but also to our moral behavior. In fact, immediately after commanding us to be holy, the Lord states, “Do not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.”
There is a lot of hatred being carried right now. How might we respond to the hatred conceived in our hearts? The Lord gives us some direction after establishing the goal of being holy. The remedy from Leviticus 19 is not exhaustive but it certainly will help us to make progress when dealing with contentious situations, whether it be political or family related.
First, the Lord states, “If you must reprove your fellow citizen do not incur sin because of him.” In other words, if we see and judge someone as missing the mark, there is a certain duty as a “citizen” of a community to bring the matter to the person accused. By directly addressing the matter to the person who has committed the wrong, we avoid allowing the injustice to fester in our hearts. How often do we bury injustices in our hearts, perceived or real, only to see them re-emerge as passive aggressive behavior.
This brings us to the next directive when dealing with an injustice. The Lord through Moses states, “take no revenge and cherish no grudge on any of your people.” Notice that the Lord did not discriminate by leaving out certain groups of people, rather, we are not to harbor a grudge against “any of your people.” What does it mean to cherish a grudge? It literally means to keep the injustice and the hurt alive in our memory. We keep the matter alive by sharing it with others, which Facebook and other social media makes so easy; dwelling on the hurt; continuously replaying the story in our mind; and, presuming evil intentions on the part of the accused. In these ways we “cherish” the grudge and make our souls into a toxic pool.
The Lord’s final counsel in responding to a person or group of people who have hurt is the best, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, Jesus includes these same words in Mark 12, a rewording of the Golden Rule.
I conclude with St. Leo the Great’s thought on what the Lord would say to those who find it difficult being “holy, as the Lord, your God is holy.” “If what I order seems difficult, come back to me who ordered it, so that from where the command was given help might be offered. I who furnished the desire will not refuse support.”