I am posting Father Carl Gallinger’s reflection from yesterday’s Interfaith Prayer Service (Jan 10) which is worth studying and praying over. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who came!
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” -Colossians 3:12-15
We are indeed a blessed people. In the providence of God, we, by birth and/or by choice, reside in this country and the great State of Wyoming. The privilege of residency calls forth an obligation from each of us to exercise our freedom in creating a more just society.
God created each of us as unique and independent images of Himself with a human nature that is both personal and communal. Inalienable rights, given to us by God, are to be respected by all and upheld by civil authority. Among these rights is certainly the freedom of religion as stated by Pope Emeritus Benedict, “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public.” The subsequent healthy pluralism, where respect is exercised by all, does not entail privatizing religion in an attempt to reduce the experience to a matter of individual conscience or
confine it to churches, synagogues or mosques.
Rather, the “marketplace” of ideas needs to be open and receptive to all. A robust conversation regarding the values we all hold as important, is a first step in discerning what is truly just and right. Here, each person has the opportunity to contribute not only to the dialogue, but to take personal ownership for the eventual outcome; a more perfect and just society.
Devotions on Emergent Occasions, a wonderful poem by John Donne, contain the now common phrase, “No man is an island.” Thomas Merton, a great American mystic and Catholic writer of the last century, used the line several times in a series of essays published under the same title. This collection of essays reflects upon the social character of humanity and the noble call to serve those relationships well. Our social interdependence surely calls each of us to greater humility, reverence for one another and a decision to listen which hopefully results in a choice to suspend judgment of persons who may not think or believe the same as us. In a time when casting aspersions is all too common and far too easy, we must elevate our discourse in the political process.
By creating a more hospitable political climate, we open the door to greater participation. Each of us is called to take an active role in public life. To be engaged with political l
ife is to fulfill our responsibility as an active participant in our common life. This ethical obligation in furthering the common good does call for a renewed conversation of social partners. Each of us must examine our own conscience to ensure past decisions were free, as much as possible, from self-serving motivations or banal self-satisfaction. This examination better prepares us to enter dialogue anew. Conscience finds its rightful place in our willingness to submit our choices to the litmus test of truth. Surely, there is no better place for us to stand as we anticipate our new legislative session.
Our reading from the Christian Testament stated eloquently the call “put on love that is the bond of perfection.” In the Christian context, love is ultimately a decision, not a feeling. Exercising this decision in building up the common good requires, as Paul states to the Colossians, “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” Justice is fulfilled when each person contributes to the common good in accord with his or her abilities and in light of the needs of others.
While the competing needs of others are critical in our political conversation, there is a certain preferential option for the poor. Those who have no voice in the public square, who have limited or no access to the above mentioned “marketplace” of ideas, needs advocates and representation. How well the poor are treated by societal structures and laws reveal not only applied justice, but the strength and character of a particular community.
This community, the great State of Wyoming, deserves our very best thinking, reflection, prayer and conversation as we embark on our sixty-fourth legislature. May March 3rd find us well-spent and grateful for the good work accomplished in a spirit of generosity, respect and humility.