In the recent presidential campaign that saw record numbers of people voting, last Saturday after days of uncertainty it was announced that Joe Biden had received over 75 million votes (and 290 electoral votes) and President Trump had received over 70 million votes (and 214 electoral votes). Though facing some possible court challenges, Mr. Biden was declared the President-elect and his running mate Pamela Harris the Vice-President-elect. To say that the previous months in our country have been difficult is more than an understatement. The vicious verbal attacks on not only national but local candidates throughout the country did little to show-forth a compassionate side of our country. The deadly COVID-19 virus has once again assaulted our daily life and we seem no more safe today than we did a few months ago.
We who hear confessions or talk with people here at St. Peter's hear the trembling in the voice of many of you and the words of discouragement that you share with us. The reality is that the difficulties many people in our city and country are suffering at this time are not just words in the Tribune, Sun-Times or sound bites on WGN or NBC. The past few months and perhaps last couple of years have been really hard for many people.
And we all have seen frustration without a sense of direction that has resulted in racism rearing its ugly head, looting taking place in our neighborhoods and even here in the Loop. And in the midst of the worse pandemic to attack our country and the world in ages, we are faced with those unwilling to sacrifice and adjust their behaviors for the good of everyone. Medical science has given us simple behaviors that can help stop the spread of this virus at this time and yet too many of us have avoided following that health advice falsely believing that we only have to be concerned for ourselves.
Pope Francis in his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (on Fraternity and Social Friendship) uses the example of the Good Samaritan (Gospel of Luke 10:25-37) to illustrate what should be our response in the world in which we live today. The Holy Father ends this encyclical with a summary of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, that was issued on February 4, 2019. In that statement Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb issued to all people of good will a way to live a culture of life, especially in our troubled world today. They wrote:
“In the name of God, who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace;
“In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity;
“In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and those most in need, whom God has commanded us to help as a duty required of all persons, especially the wealthy and those of means;
“In the name of orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and their countries; in the name of all victims of wars, persecution and injustice; in the name of the weak, those who live in fear, prisoners of war and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction;
“In the name of peoples who have lost their security, peace and the possibility of living together, becoming victims of destruction, calamity and war;
“In the name of human fraternity, that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal;
“In the name of this fraternity torn apart by policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women;
“In the name of freedom, that God has given to all human beings, creating them free and setting them apart by this gift;
“In the name of justice and mercy, the foundations of prosperity and the cornerstone of faith;
“In the name of all persons of goodwill present in every part of the world;
“In the name of God and of everything stated thus far, [we] declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard”.
In his speech last Saturday, President-elect Biden began by saying:
It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans. The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.
As he ended his speech, President-elect Biden quoted from a familiar song that was written by Fr. Michael Joncas a number of years ago. You have probably heard these healing words before in church and at gatherings:
“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.”
Mr. Biden ended his speech saying: "And now, together — on eagle’s wings — we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do. With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country — and a thirst for justice — let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united. A nation strengthened. A nation healed. The United States of America.
No matter what our political affiliation, as Catholics, as believers in Jesus we are called to care for one another. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to remind us of our duty to care for our fellow human beings, even if they don't look like us, don't worship like us or are very different than us. When any human being is in need our Christian duty is to try and provide healing to one another. Let each of us as faithful Catholics and as residents of these United States resolve in the coming months to do all we can to heal our divisions and do our part to keep one another safe and healthy.