Sunday, September 4, 2016

Voting with Wisdom

XXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time—C
San Jose Parish 
Austin, TX

After having offered a sacrifice to the Lord on the altar in Gibeon, the Lord came to King Solomon in a dream at night and said, “Whatever you ask I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:5-11). Whatever you ask, anything at all. Yet not for riches nor military prowess nor expertise in foreign policy nor mastery of economics nor knowledge of science nor technological advancement did King Solomon ask, but rather for Wisdom. King Solomon knew how timid were the deliberations of mortal minds, how unsure our plans are. How even what is within our grasp, the earthly things of science, are only achieved with great difficulty. And if these things are laborious, how much more so are those things of God. King Solomon understood that the only way to make good decisions in line with the counsel of God, decisions according to what the Lord intends, decisions that will please Him, is to pray for wisdom and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so as we over hear King Solomon’s prayer for Wisdom, he asks, “give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).   

Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received at our Confirmation, the seventh and greatest of them all. Wisdom brings about right order; it sets things right. As King Solomon’s prayer for Wisdom concludes, “And thus the paths of those on earth were set right” (Wis 9:18). Thus, in the Tradition Wisdom is associated with the peacemakers in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:9), for where there is right order there is peace and tranquility. Yet, order requires decisions, good decisions. Order requires us to judge rightly and put things in their proper place. And so Wisdom helps make right decisions, distinguishing and placing things in right order. Again as King Solomon asked, “give your servant…a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). Wisdom, then, is the perfect gift for the king or those who rule over peoples, since it helps them to decide what is needed in order establish right order and, therefore, peace for their people. Yet it is also desirable for those who have to decide who will rule over them—us, the people, who have to vote for our rulers and leaders. And what a decision we have before us. 

So how do we vote with Wisdom? How do we make a wise decision? How do we vote wisely, that is, in a way that is pleasing to the Lord? First of all we need, as King Solomon asked, to have “a listening heart” (Cf. 1 Kings 3:9). We have to do our research, reading articles and watching speeches, listening to experts from all sides and to the candidates themselves. As the Bishop’s have said, “It is important for all citizens ‘to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 33)” (Faithful Citizenship, 41). Such a “listening heart” means we will have to block out simple and superficial talk on the subject; Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and the Late Show a wise vote will not make. Again as the Bishops have said, “they should consider candidates’ integrity, philosophy, and performance” (Faithful Citizenship, 41). An examination of the candidates’ on this level will require us to consider more than positions or policies on certain issues, but the candidates deeper values and belief systems, influences and mentors, their goals and motivations, experience and history, passions and interests. 

Furthermore, a “listening heart” looks into candidates at every level of the election. There are not only two candidates running for one office in this election. Do you know who is running for your district? Indeed, a “listening heart” requires us to take it all in, not a single issue, a single policy, office, candidate, or agenda; We must listen to it all. 

The second thing a wise vote requires is “to judge.” An odd concept, yes, but after taking all the information in through that “listening heart,” we must compare and contrast, ask critical questions, and formulate opinions—judge. Here our faith provides the backdrop. As the Bishops have said, “Catholic voters should use the framework of Catholic social teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues affecting human life and dignity as well as the issues of justice and peace” (Faithful Citizenship, 41). This framework consists in the four principles of Catholic Social Teaching: the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity, the common good, and solidarity. Now, this framework is not just another set of policies or an agenda. The Church is not a political party and as such does not have a platform. Rather because of our relationship to Jesus Christ and His Spirit who dwells within us, we follow our consciences informed by the teachings of His Church. Ultimately, we will judge wisely with our “listening heart” if we vote according to our conscience upon which is written the Law of God.     

If we do these two things, have a “listening heart” and judge according to our conscience, then we will be well on our way to the third part of voting with Wisdom and that is “to distinguish what is good and evil.” Here we must admit that not all issues and policies are created equal. As the Bishop’s say clearly, “In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions” (Faithful Citizenship, 37). Such intrinsically evil acts are “abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior” (Faithful Citizenship, 34). These things are intrinsically evil because there exist no mitigating circumstances, no situation in which such an action can be right. Here the Catholic voter in order to vote wisely needs to distinguish which policies and candidates support or put forward such evil acts and which do not. And so I ask you to pray for the gift of Wisdom, both for those running for office and for the voters who will elect them, that we might have a listening heart, judge rightly, and distinguish well between good and evil. Then, and only then, will we truly make a wise decision.  

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