A Reflection by Bishop Mark
Since Election Day, I have received a few comments and concerns about Catholic Church leaders who have communicated with Joseph Biden. The focus of these concerns are political and religious.
The political concern is that communication with Mr. Biden was made prior to the final step in the election which is not official until the Electoral College casts its vote based on the popular vote. The question has been raised, “Isn’t it premature to offer congratulations?” It’s a fair question, since congratulations are typically given to the winner. However, according to common diplomacy, such a message of well wishes means just that; to wish the person well, even if that person was not the choice of the one offering that expression.
The religious concern is more sensitive because it appears that Catholic religious leaders are showing approval of a political candidate whose view on the sanctity of human life is inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Some have reminded me that we Catholics must be pro-life. I cannot agree more. All human life is sacred; from conception to natural death.
When it comes to safeguarding the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, we who profess and try to live the Catholic faith have our work cut out for us. There is reason for optimism when I see how young people have become the face of the pro-life movement in our country. For so many of them it has been a test of their faith in the Lord Jesus. And I have seen them in person as they give witness to their faith in God and their conviction that human life is sacred.
It is also promising to see how ready young persons are ready to come to the aid of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the refugees. Of course they have been taught that by God-loving and God-fearing parents, teachers, and religious leaders.
Which leads me to think about the greetings, the well-wishes, extended by Catholic leaders to Mr. Biden. Hopefully, they were able to communicate the need to work for the common good of all persons on this earth; whether they are adversaries or closest friends; whether they are born or unborn.
In my lifetime I have received congratulations from well-wishers on the occasion of a failure or setback. They weren’t rubbing it in when I was on the losing team in baseball or hockey game. They were honest words that acknowledged my shortcoming while offering words of encouragement and success the next time.
The Lord Jesus tells us that we should pray for our enemies and persecutors. And St. Paul says in his 1st Letter to the Thessalonians to encourage one another with his words. The Thessalonians were worried about the same stresses and strains of earthly life that we experience: taxes, breakdowns, bills, accidents, plagues, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, hail, and all sorts of calamities.
So what were those words of encouragement? St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians and all of us that one day all these things that cause us so much distress will come to an end. On that day our eternal joy and pleasure will delight our hearts when we come into God’s presence (Psalm 16:11). But until that day comes, we have lots to do to announce the coming of God’s Kingdom.
So what comes after the election season? The holy season of Advent with words of hope: O Come, O Come Emmanuel! He did. And he will come again!