There is a beautiful prayer that is used in the rite of Baptism for an infant. It is based on today’s Gospel that tells of Jesus healing the deaf and the mute man. As he does so, he touches the deaf man’s ears and mouth and says “ephphetha,” the Aramaic word for “be open.” Although most people who are baptized can hear and speak, this prayer asks that the ears of the individual will be opened to hear God’s Word in faith and that hearing it they may also speak it in faith. This is an important prayer in the world we live in today. Throughout our lifetimes, each one of us hears so many words and are invited to speak in different ways. As Christians, we are called upon to discern what we listen to and ask if it corresponds to our Gospel values and to speak and act according to these values.
This Sunday, September 5th is the Feast Day of St. Teresa of Calcutta. St. Teresa of Calcutta is a Christian who truly heard God’s word and spoke and acted in such a way that contributed to building the Kingdom of God wherever she went. Her bold proclamation of God’s love for all people, rich and poor, took to heart in a dramatic way the words from second reading from the Letter of James, which calls us to care for the poor and the marginalized. As Christians, the Gospels call each of us to recognize the dignity of each person and to be concerned about the good of others and our society in the decisions and choices that we make. The Church’s social teachings have emphasized this as they have reminded Christians of the need to care for the poor, the conditions of workers, the family, the dignity of life, concern for the environment, the concerns of indigenous people, and how the sick and elderly are treated. Even when there are things in our Church’s past that concern us, the call of the Gospel is not to attempt to cancel the past, but to move forward and to build a just society and respond to the present situation according to the values that Christ has taught us.
Few of us may be able to live the kind of heroic life that St. Teresa of Calcutta lived. If we were, imagine what a wonderful world we would live in. There are, however, concrete ways that are possible to each of us and it is important that we exercise these means according to our Catholic faith and with an informed conscience. One of these ways, which is coming up for us here in Canada, is by voting according to our faith and our conscience. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1915, states that all Christians, as far as possible, should take part in the public life of their country. As our own country prepares for a federal election, it is important that all of us hear what the parties are saying through ears of faith and discern how to act and vote with faith. Because this is an important matter for our faith and how we act as Christians, I would like to share with you today a resource that has been prepared by an organization called “Catholic Conscience” to help Catholics participate in the electoral process with a faith informed conscience.
The first thing that I would like to say about “Catholic Conscience” is that it is a bipartisan Christian organization. It does not seek to endorse or support any political platform or party. Its only purpose is to invite Christians to discern how they will vote through the ears of faith and by acting and speaking their vote with faith. To that extent, they have prepared a one-page hand-out that is included in this week’s bulletin that gives a six-point summary which outlines how a Christian might prepare to vote. I would like to share that with you in this week’s homily as well.
The first step is to register to vote. This is a right and a privilege that we enjoy in Canada and that is to be taken seriously by all.
The second step that Catholic Conscience proposes is that we pray about the issues and concerns about which we must make a decision. The flyer they have prepared states: “We must pray devoutly throughout the entire voting process, asking for guidance as we try to decide which party or candidate to support. We should share our hopes and fears for society, our neighbors, ourselves, and the world. If we do that devoutly, God will open our ears and eyes, guiding us to the vote He wants us to cast—whether or not it is the same vote He might desire from others: our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, we have no idea what God’s plans are. As with the loaves and fishes, God can make whatever He wants of just a few votes.”
The third step is a call to really listen to all of the different candidates and parties with ears of faith so that we can honestly look, learn, listen and chat with others. The one-pager from “Catholic Conscience” states: “We are called to inform ourselves responsibly concerning (a) the teachings of the Church and (b) issues relevant to the election. This involves identifying and consulting responsible news sources and familiarizing ourselves with the values of the Catholic Social Teaching. Comprehensive information concerning Catholic teaching and party positions on the issues can be found at the Catholic Conscience website: www.CatholicConscience.org . As we learn, we should seek out those around us, at home, church, and work and discuss the issues with others, listening respectfully and evaluating all appropriate options.”
The fourth step follows naturally after the first three and that is that we should choose with confidence how we will vote. Here we read: “If we pray devoutly, God will open our ears, eyes and hearts, and will lead us to the choice He wants from us, so that we can help accomplish His plan. We can vote with confidence.”
The fifth step requires that we actually vote. As the flier states: “Instructions for finding your polling place or voting by mail can be found at the Elections Canada website: https://www.elections.ca/home.aspx.”
The sixth step after the election invites us to stay involved. Here Catholic Conscience states in the brochure: “Once the election is over, stay actively and respectfully engaged with those who have been elected—whether they are your own preferred candidates or not. This is important if we hope to improve our choices in the future. While gently sharing with them our concerns about problems, we should remember to thank them for the sacrifices they have made to serve.”
When considering how to vote, Catholics ought to consider a broad range of issues and not make their decision based only on self-interest or one specific issue. Some of the issues to be considered are listed in this flier as follows:
- “The Sanctity of Human Life: from Conception to Natural Death: Abortion—Euthanasia & Alternatives—Human Engineering and Population Control.
- Stewardship of Creation: Climate Change—Species, Diversity & Wildlife—Energy & Resources—Sustainable Development.
- Family, Community and the Common Good: Role of the Family—Health Care—Education & Young Workers—Culture Arts & Tourism
- An Economy for All: The Dignity of Work—Poverty Reduction—Labour, Employment, Corporations & Industry.
- The Individual & Society: Rights, Responsibility, & Subsidiarity” Civil Liberties—Human Rights—Responsibilities: Participation & Subsidiarity
- Solidarity: Supporting the Marginalized—Indigenous Peoples—Rural Communities—Refugees & Newcomers.
- Good Government: Democracy, Justice, & Peace: Role & Purpose of Government—Stewardship & Reform—Provinces, Territories, & Municipalities—International Relations & Defense—Public Safety.”
The beautiful prayer that was said on the day that we were baptized—” The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak, may he soon touch your ears to receive His word and your moth to proclaim His word, to the praise and glory of God the Father,”—points to the responsibility that we have during an election to listen with ears of faith and to speak our vote with that same faith. May each one of us do this through our faith in Christ.
May God bless Canada!
Fr. Michael McGourty
Pastor, St. Peter’s Parish—Toronto.
This reflection based on the readings for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B: Isaiah 35: 4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2: 1-5, and Mark 7: 31-37.