Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent
He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
My reflection today is set against the backdrop of the US Elections. An event happening 5,000 kms away (I write this on the day Joe Biden won the Electoral College vote for the Presidency), has had a strange but compelling grip on me. My ‘vote’ was, and still would be, for Joe Biden. I am going to be unabashedly pro-Biden in this reflection. What I thought was a choice that was as clear as night and day, got thrown into disarray when some Catholic friends of mine vehemently condemned Biden and adulated Trump because of the so-called ‘pro-life stance’ of Trump and the Republicans. There are even videos of priests, nuns and even Bishops that have proclaimed that a vote for Biden will send one directly to hell because of the anti-pro-life stance of the Democrats. “Joe Biden? Not pro-life. Fake Catholic! Vote Trump or you will go to hell for not being a good Catholic.” Mind-boggling, faith shaking stuff. And at the same time, myopic, simplistic, perhaps even delusional?
In response, I ask of those who were so quick to judge and condemn – as important as it may be, is pro-life defined ONLY to life in the womb? Is life a zero-sum game? What about the tenets of our Catholic faith, which values ALL life – from womb to grave. Isn’t this just as fundamental to our faith and embodied in Catholic Social Teaching? Where life is equally sacred in the form of a child receiving the love of parents and family, the needs of the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden, the sick, the sanctity of the vocation of parents to provide for their families, the dignity of the elderly, of the disabled, the inalienable rights of every human being to justice, equality, dignity, irrespective of race, religion or status? Do all these not count? Are we not missing the forest for the trees and throwing the baby out with the bathwater when, in righteous defense of the precious life in the womb, rightful as that may be, we end up inadvertently denigrating the sanctity of all other expressions of life?
And here is the thing — my second point – the difference between what is said and what is done, best embodied in the image of President Trump carrying a Bible, standing in front of a church. Does this make him a great defender of the faith and embodiment of morality and virtue? Or, as many wayward, dubious and hypocritical, prosperity gospel-touting evangelicals in the US (as well as misguided Catholics) seem to tout, that he is God’s ‘chosen one’ to bring about the moral conversion of the world. Not to me. Not when he couldn’t even cite a single line of Scripture from his so-called “favorite book” when asked. Not when it is someone who thinks the Pope needs to ask forgiveness of him and that he need not ask forgiveness of God for anything. Not when the pathway to that photo op in front of a church was at the expense of ruthless oppression, violence against peaceful protesters. Sorry – “Fake it till you make it” does not quite cut it for me. It is an insult to both the sanctity of God and to the decency of man. And the hypocrisy is overbearingly obvious. If there is any truth that Trump is the ‘Chosen One’ at all, then perhaps it is in the irony that in Trump, we get to see much more clearly, what the face of God should NOT look like. We need to set the bar higher… much, much higher.
Like the parable of the Good Samaritan – have we not learnt that what God demands of us is not to just say, but ACT, in love for Him AND our fellow man? When we see the innocent, the weak, the helpless and the suffering of the innocent, abused by the rich and the powerful, by injustice, by hate, by division, by prejudice, by self-interest – is it not our Christian duty to act to stand up against such evil? It’s like the Levite saying, “I’d love to stop and help you out my brother, but I’m in a hurry to go off to praise and glorify God in the temple. All the best to you!”. Like the intrinsic moral struggle in the parable of The Good Samaritan, we too struggle between upholding the tenets of faith and the living of that faith.
Lastly, let me say as well – beware the narcissist! Typified by self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Such personalities, with their larger-than-life egos are so full of themselves, in their narrow, self-centered, self-absorbed egos, that they have no more place to spare for God, nor for His will. It is all about magnifying their self-importance, self-righteousness and self-entitlement. I can visualize Trump now, like a spoilt child, ranting loudly, rudely and arrogantly in the background – “God? Why are you talking about God? I have probably done more for humanity than God ever did in the history of this world. Don’t you get it? It’s all about me!” (sorry – couldn’t resist this swipe).
When all is said and done, we should not employ earthly standards to exercise judgement and discretion, but divine yardsticks instead – i.e., the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the 10 Commandments and the 8 Beatitudes. Can we see actions that lead to unity, compassion, justice, gentleness, humility, healing, order, self-control, truth, charity and respect for human dignity being demonstrated in their actions? Who is the one that is authentic and sincere in honouring God and loving neighbour? Living up to the standards of morality and integrity enshrined in the 10 Commandments? And who seek true love for God and neighbour in the pursuit of true holiness by chasing not what brings happiness for oneself but for his fellow man, as embodied in the Beatitudes? You need to come to your own conclusions. In these standards set not by man, but by God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we will be able to see who truly has a heart, after the heart of God.
God bless America. And God bless Joe Biden, as he now leads a once proud and stirring nation in serious need of wisdom, healing and restoration. One that seems to have long forgotten how to love God authentically, how to love one another humanely, and how to love their country patriotically.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Help us Father. Save us from the manipulation of consciences and the suffering of the innocent and helpless in the midst of the selfishness and immorality of those in authority, who abuse the trust placed upon them. Save your people and your world, so lost, so divided, so foolish.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for allowing the light of Your truth to shine forth in the midst of evil and darkness. Thank you for sending your Spirit to watch over us and lead us to the truth.