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Recently I reread John Allen’s reflection in Crux about an opportunity and a challenge for Catholics to play a major role in healing our deeply divided nation.

Some excerpts…

To begin with, Catholicism is the lone major religious group in America where both sides of the nation’s political divide are roughly evenly represented. Overall, exit polls from the November (2020) election show that Catholics were almost evenly split between Biden and Trump, and those realities are readily apparent on Catholic social media platforms as well as traditional Catholic media outlets.

On a personal level, I’ve got American Catholic friends who are passionate Trump supporters and friends who are equally fervid critics, and both groups are composed of people with great minds and even better hearts.

We live in a polarized world, and these friends of mine are certainly capable of looking on the other side with skepticism and even derision, but that’s them at their worst, not their best.

The full gospel!

Then I thought about it St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians

… there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to* Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

Is this what is happening today?

Perhaps today, Paul might ask do you say “I belong to Trump, while others say, “I belong to Biden.”

If Christianity means loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself, then people of all political persuasions fall short of Christ’s central doctrine of sacrificial love.

The Democratic Party emphasizes some of those teachings and embodies them.  The Republican Party embodies others. Neither reflects the spectrum of the Gospel.

Jesus tells a story and invites personal reflection

Jesus’ core teaching was “Thou shalt love the Lord your God… and love your neighbor as yourself.”

A lawyer had a “gotcha” question for Jesus. “Who is my neighbor”. Jesus tells a story and asks the lawyer for his response. “There was a man traveling along the road to Jericho…” We see three people who missed the main point of the prayer Jesus taught… OUR FATHER! There was another who passed by, a hated Samaritan who probably never heard Jesus preaching.

Fast forward to today. Who is your neighbor the day after Election Day?

The easy answer is the family or the couple or the person you can see from your home. The person who voted like you!

Jesus suggests a tougher answer for us. He tells us a story about someone who acted as a neighbor; a Samaritan loathed by Jesus’ listeners. He tended radically to an injured stranger. “Go and do likewise”, Jesus said.

None of us really lives the radical call of Jesus to love… even our enemy!

Who are we in Jesus’ story?

So we are challenged to discover what we hold in common. I have to find ways we can debate without acrimony. With God’s grace, can substitute understanding for judgment.  The other may see something I am missing.

 I must hold on to the fact that we are called to be sisters and brothers. I must no longer contribute to chaos and hatred. After all, I am called to see the face of Jesus in these neighbors’ faces, to love them as I love myself. Pope Francis said much the same in religiously divided Bahrain.

Who is your neighbor the day after Election Day?

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