Homily for Election Sunday 08

Ex. 22.20-26; Ps. 18; 1 Thess. 1.5-10; Mt. 22.34-40

Have you ever been financially poor, not knowing where your next meal was coming from? Do you remember who helped you? Have you ever been very sick, not strong enough even to eat? Do you remember who helped you? Do you remember being in a foreign country, and needing help? Do you remember who helped you?

Today's first reading recounts the Jews' exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Palestine, which happened about 1300 BC. The author reminds the Jews that they were once aliens in a foreign land, and God and other people took care of them when they were down and out. God tells the Jews, therefore, do not take advantage of foreigners; rather, remember, and be good to them. The reading adds that widows and orphans can't take care of themselves in all ways, so reach out and help them.

The gospel continues that theme. Jesus reflects on the 613 Jewish laws and sums them up in two: love God with your whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus takes the wide view of laws, and gives us a clear focus and foundational vision: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians gives thanks to God, and congratulates these Gentiles because they have converted from belief in pagan gods and pagan ways, to belief in Jesus and Jesus' way.

The message of these three readings is very clear: God has made a covenant with his people, and the way we respond to God's offer of profound friendship is by being good towards God, and helping all people, especially the most needy in our midst.

Those words serve as a preface to a few thoughts I would like to share about the election which will be held in ten days. The following issues are critical and wide-ranging: the gamut of pro-life/respect-life issues (e.g., abortion, stem-cell research, human cloning, the death penalty, euthanasia), our national economy and the world's economy, social justice issues that pertain to caring for the poor and the immigrants in our midst, education, health care, social engineering issues like same-sex marriage and equating animal rights with human rights, nominations for the next Supreme Court justices, respecting and protecting God's environment, the reality of terrorism here in the United States and throughout the whole world, the sad reality of war and that war is a fact of life in world history.

The Catholic Church does not tell you how to vote. The Church presents principles to guide and assist you in preparing for voting. You decide how to vote. We respect each other's decisions. We all have a unique window on the world. We see the world through that particular lens. All of us in the congregation are exposed to the same newspapers, internet sites, TV news shows, Church teachings, and homilies. Some will decide for candidate A, and others will decide for candidate B. We respect each other's vote.

In the bulletin today are two inserts. A general statement of principles comes from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A comparison of the political stances of the two presidential candidates comes from our local archbishop. Parishes may not distribute any literature except what comes from three sources: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, from the regional Maryland Province of Catholic Bishops, and from our local bishop. Please read the two inserts. I want to share with you Catholic principles. You decide how to apply them when you vote.

  1. Please vote. In our system of participatory government, voting is one very important way that we Catholics put our faith into action.
  2. Have a well-formed conscience. We arrive at a well-formed conscience by knowing the facts as best as possible, by knowing the teachings of the Church as best as possible, and making a reasonable decision.
  3. Be prudent. Prudence is the first and most important of all the moral virtues. The church teaches about prudence: if an action lacks prudence, then even the good that you hope to achieve will not be achieved.
  4. Do good and avoid evil. Some actions are intrinsically evil: e.g., abortion, racism, unjust wars, and many other activities are intrinsically evil; and we must never support them. Now, anticipating a couple of questions. First, may a Catholic vote for a pro-abortion candidate? The answer is "yes" and "no." A Catholic may vote for a candidate despite the candidate's being pro-abortion, but not because the candidate is pro-abortion. Second, is the right to life just one more issue among many other issues? No, the right to life is the most fundamental right. All other rights are subsequent, and have no meaning and no chance, if the right to life is not respected. The right to life is not the equal of providing better housing or highways.

I'd like to conclude with a funny story. Four years ago at election time, I gave a similar homily. The next day I received two phone calls. One person said it was terrible that I gave such a pro-John Kerry talk. The second writer said it was terrible that I gave such a pro-George Bush talk. This year, please don't call me. I'm giving you principles. You decide for whom to vote.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley