Discussing civility in the public square, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., reminds American Catholics that they are “citizens of two worlds,” the kingdom of God and of a great nation. The incivility displayed in this year’s presidential campaign season sometimes makes it hard to reconcile these two citizenships. But it’s precisely at this time that good stewards of God’s love and mercy must become engaged politically.
Our Holy Father urges us to be ambassadors of Christ in the public square. Pope Francis has said, “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics.
This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves.” (Daily homily, 9/16/13).
How can we “offer the best of ourselves” in this political season? There are many ways. Christian stewards have a starting point: They recognize Jesus’ admonition that nations will be judged by how they treat the poor, the sick, the weak, and most vulnerable in society (Matt 25:31-46), as well as how they respond to their neighbors (Luke 10:25-37).
They understand that political differences are expected, even among Christians, but their convictions are expressed with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
When we express our views through social media, we can raise the bar and interact with mercy, respect and dignity, as Jesus did. We avoid name-calling, mockery and insulting remarks, even in the privacy of our homes and especially in front of our children.
We become involved in organizations that focus on issues and advocate for causes that promote mercy, compassion and justice. We write to elected officials with well-expressed convictions to affirm or hold them accountable for their stewardship of the public trust. We speak truth boldly in the public square, not to force our faith and beliefs on others but as Christ’s ambassadors, bearing the fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22–26). We never forget to vote, and to pray for our public leaders.
Pope Francis challenges us to “immerse” ourselves in politics. As citizens of two worlds, we commit to promoting and supporting the common good. Our convictions on how best to nurture the common good may differ, but we must keep the pontiff’s exhortation in mind: in politics, just as in life, Catholics must offer the best of themselves, and seek to find and pray for political leaders who do the same.