A new season
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him… They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. [Acts 7:54, 58]
Yesterday, our great season of giving came to an end. Since early November, as we prepared for Thanksgiving, until yesterday, when we celebrated the birth of our Savior, people have been collecting food for the hungry, gathering toys for children and participating in numerous other activities to brighten the lives of those in need.
Next week, another season begins as legislative bodies at the local, state, and national level return to address the issues that confront their constituents. As Catholics, we will act on our responsibility to participate in public life by contacting our legislators and other elected leaders to make them aware of our concerns as individuals and as a Church.
But while people generally worked without controversy during the giving season, they will face dissension during the season of advocacy. And some of us, like Stephen in today’s Gospel, will be stoned — figuratively if not literally — by those who do not want to hear the words we speak. Like the opponents of Stephen, they will become infuriated. They may not be able to throw us out of the city, but some would like to throw us out of the Church.
Nevertheless, as Pope Francis reminds us, “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”
Even though the nation has grown more divided in recent years, we must not neglect our duty to address poverty, homelessness, immigration and numerous other contentious issues that challenge our leaders.
The problem is not that the Church is too political; rather, it is that too many are partisan, preferring the policies of their party over the teachings of their church.
Our bishops remind us “Political rhetoric is increasingly angry, seeking to motivate primarily through division and hatred. Fear can be an effective tool for raising money. The most heated arguments online often get the most clicks. Demonizing the other can win votes.”
To address these issues, the bishops have re-issued Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, their guide to Catholics and public life. It is an important resource as we face the challenges of the current political season. We should read it and share it with others.
Deacon Walter Ayres recently retired as Director of Catholic Charities Commission on Peace and Justice in the Diocese of Albany, NY.