At the conclusion of his six-day visit to Mexico, Pope Francis celebrated Mass within walking distance of the U.S. border and pleaded for mercy and compassion in dealing with the flood of refugees that is overwhelming not only the United States, but Europe, Africa and the Middle East. On his Mexican pilgrimage, the Holy Father spanned the country from border to border calling for an end to exploitation of workers, inequality, corruption, drug trafficking and poverty.
It came as no surprise that some American politicians accused the Pope of meddling in U.S. politics with his gestures highlighting the plight of the refugees. Of course, the Holy Father spoke similar words in the more than 20 countries the Holy Father has visited in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. They reflect his worldview of the universality of suffering and are deemed political by those who see them only through the prism of their own self-interests.
Tomorrow is the March 1 primary election in Texas when citizens are exercising the most foundational act of citizenship in our society, that of voting for candidates for office.
For Catholics, voting is more than an act of citizenship – it is inherently an act of discipleship. It is a spiritual and moral act that must go beyond political parties and self-interest and be based on prayerful discernment of the common good.
In his address to Congress last year, Pope Francis said that ”building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation …” Concern for the common good or cooperation has been lacking or drowned out by strident shouting matches by the presidential candidates on the debate stage and on the campaign trail.
Sadly, there has been very little substantive discussion of the serious issues, foreign and domestic, facing our nation. The American bishops have issued a document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which discusses key issues based on Gospel values.
Electing the president of the United States is not a competition between two partisan teams, one good and one bad, with all the visceral enjoyment that such a competition brings. It is a sacred trust that should not be violated by trivialization.
The ethics of discipleship in voting lies not in the embrace of any one issue or set of issues. Rather, it is a prayerful process of discernment that requires concern for the common good. Special emphasis should be placed on the issues affecting the poor, the unborn, the vulnerable and the marginalized rather than that of special interest groups or political parties.
Let us always pray that God, our Heavenly Father, will continue to bless and guide the leaders and people of our great country.
Image Credit: IIP Photo Archive on Flickr