You may have heard: there’s an election on Tuesday.
If you’re finding this to be a stressful time, you aren’t alone.
Google the phrase “election stress,” and you’ll get over 900,000 entries. One of them is from the American Psychological Association, which reports that 52 percent of those surveyed describe this election as a significant source of stress. It cuts across all ages and demographics. No one is immune.
This has been a long and painful campaign—disturbing and ugly and depressing.
I think it’s safe to say: no one is happy with the choices we are facing this year. Our own bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, put it bluntly last month in The Tablet:
“The political climate in the United States is chaotic and dispiriting,” he wrote. “The Presidential nominees of both major political parties seem scandal-plagued and corrupt. America deserves better but perhaps these two contenders for our nation’s highest political office are simply a reflection of the citizenry.”
The psalm this Sunday seems to capture our frustration.
“Hear O Lord, attend to my outcry… I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my word.”
And the letter from St. Paul sends this plea to the people of Thessalonika:
“Pray for us,” Paul writes, “that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people.”
Clearly, judging from the scripture, a lot of what we’re feeling these days is hardly new.
But for all the anxiety swirling around us, destabilizing us, we need to bear in mind this unshakable truth:
We are not ruled by our fears.
Last week, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles wrote a blog post and described seeing a sign outside a Protestant church:
“No matter who is President,” it said, “Jesus Christ is still king.”
That is a sign of the times—and one we desperately need.
The archbishop explained. “First,” he said “this means we should have great hope—because Jesus has already won the battle for us and he is walking with us. And second, if Jesus Christ is truly king, it means we still have a job to do, you and me. We still have our identity and mission as Christians. We are called to be people of hope and we are called to share that hope of Christ with others. No matter who is president.”
If you want to find the kind of hope he’s talking about, you need to look far beyond the campaign trail. A few days ago, the world got a glimpse of it in an unlikely place—and, I think, attention must be paid. This is a story the world needs to hear. It is a story about the persistence of hope and the triumph of faith.
It happened in northern Iraq, in one of the oldest cradles of Christianity, the town of Bartella, outside Mosul. Two weeks ago, Iraqi soldiers liberated Bartella from ISIS.
As the soldiers moved through the town and realized it had been abandoned, they did something unexpected. And beautiful.
First, they broke a long pole in two and tied it together to create a cross.
Then, they climbed to the top of the town’s church and planted the cross on its dome. Standing there, the soldiers blessed themselves and prayed.
They rang the church bells—the first time bells had pealed in the village in two years.
Then the soldiers then made their way into the church. They were so grateful to be there, one of them paused to kiss the walls.
But then they looked around and surveyed the damage: statues decapitated, pews overturned, shrines demolished, prayer books burned.
And they wept.
Then they did they only thing they could: they knelt among the ruins and prayed. They prayed in Aramaic—the language of Jesus—and said a Hail Mary.
The men in that church know this much: the words inscribed on that sign in California are also inscribed in their hearts.
Jesus Christ is still King.
They are not alone.
And neither are we.
Especially now. After all the poison and the pain…Christ is King. Remember this.
And we need to remember something else: we are called to be people of prayer—now, more than ever.
Pray for our country, our leaders and our candidates—the ones we support and the ones we don’t.
Pray that we never take the right to vote for granted—and that we never forget that our most important right, above all, is the right to life.
Pray that we live and vote in a way that honors all life, born and unborn, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.
Pray that we elect leaders who cherish and respect life.
And, after so much rancor and anger and hate, pray for healing.
The bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, last week gave a speech in which he said he believes the most important responsibility we have as a nation will not be exercised on Tuesday.
It will come, he said, in the days after.
It will come in looking beyond the partisan divides that separate us, and looking for a better way to live together and work together and govern together.
It will come in tending the wounded among us—the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the dispossessed of every color and gender and creed.
It will come in sharing the hope of Christ with others.
It will come in being Christ for others.
Let us ask our Lady, the patroness of our parish and the patroness of our country, to help make it so. In these final hours before the election, may she walk with us, shelter us, and intercede for us. May she stay close to us in the days that follow.
And may the mother who gave birth to hope continue to give birth to hope in our hearts … in our country…and in our world.