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October 23, 2016 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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God Doesn’t Play Favorites

“So, who are you voting for?” I heard someone ask someone else at the grocery store.

Both people laughed.

I suppose this election year, if you don’t laugh, you will cry!

This election hasn’t just brought out the worst in politics, but also judging by much of what I am seeing on my own social media, it has brought out the worst in us. Today’s readings challenge us to do some serious self-evaluation. Are we so immovable in our own opinions and, as the Gospel says, our self-righteousness, that we are closed off to the Holy Spirit’s movement in our own lives? Are we causing scandal to the Gospel in the way we treat one another in the name of Truth and Love? Are we putting politics and politicians in the place that God should hold in our lives? I, for one, am coming to the realization that if I used the amount of time I spend on social media reading about various scandals to instead pray and discern God’s presence in my neighbor, I would at the very least have a lot less anxiety!!

The very first line of the first reading says that God is a God of justice who knows no favorites! This is a hard saying. Many of us may struggle to believe that God loves Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton just as much as He loves you and I. Or many of us may struggle to believe God loves us just as much as He loves Pope Francis! This doesn’t mean we can get away with anything –God is a just God– but the most important thing to Him is our salvation. The most important thing to Him isn’t the outcome of American politics, but rather that we seek to know, love, and serve Him. Our joy can never be satisfied by the outcome of sports games and elections and grades. Our joy can only be satisfied in Him, even if circumstances are challenging!

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the story of how a Pharisee prayed and how a tax collector prayed. The Pharisee was a religious leader at the time– one of the theoretically most holy people because of his dedication to the Church. The tax collector was despised by all, because they were usually corrupt and the taxes were a form of persecution by the Romans to keep the people oppressed. The Pharisee prayed out of a hefty dose of self-righteousness, thanking God that he wasn’t as bad as the people he knew! Imagine if you were trying to get a job and you told your potential employer, “Well, I’m not as lazy as some of your other employees.” Do you think you would get the job? Or if you were asking someone for forgiveness and you said, “I know I hurt you, but most of the time I do the right thing.” Does that sound like a sincere apology?

The tax collector, though, had a much different approach to prayer. He came in with humility and deep repentance, begging for God’s mercy. Jesus says that this man went home justified. This man received God’s mercy because he knew he was in need of it. The Pharisee thought he already had enough!

Right now, via social media and this election, we have to realize that we are all in great need of God’s mercy. How we treat one another, saying “Well, this person isn’t as bad as that person and I’m not as bad as that person” is exactly what we need to avoid. Instead, when we come across some of the hot topics that make our blood pressure rise, we should pray and remember God loves us and God loves them. We all stand in need of God’s Mercy. And we pray for this election and our country with the same humility. Praying not necessarily that this person wins or that person wins, but that God will convert the hearts of all of our leaders to seek and to serve Him. And that God will also reveal to us when we are tempted to think we no longer need His mercy or that our relationship with Him is “good enough”. Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry! – St. Padre Pio

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