PORTLAND---“We have a brief period of time to catch our breath before the final push to the election. It seems an opportune time to see how we can apply the structure that Jesus calls us to live as his followers with our civic duty to vote and to participate in an active way in the life of our democratic republic.”
The words of Bishop Robert Deeley during Sunday morning’s homily at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland filled air that was drastically cooler than preceding weeks, reminding parishioners in attendance that as fall approaches so, too, does Election Day in November, just 50 days from Monday.
“In today’s Gospel, Jesus sets out what will be the structure of life for those who are to be members of his church,” the bishop told those gathered in person as well as the large crowd of participants viewing Sunday’s Mass via livestream. “To structure our lives, you and me, Jesus reminds us of the core reality. ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’”
The structure that Jesus sets for us as his followers seems daunting.
“Take up your cross? It seems demanding, and it surely is, particularly in a culture like our own which puts such an emphasis on the individual, the individual’s rights, and self-satisfaction,” said the bishop. “If, however, we who seek to be followers of Jesus begin to come to know him, and learn from this relationship we have with him, we will begin to understand what he asks of us. He asks us to live with each other the way in which he lives with us. The cross we are asked to carry is the burden of each other. We are called to care for each other, and to consider the needs of others as we make our decisions and choices in life.”
Major decisions are set for Tuesday, November 3, and the bishop told the assembly this morning that the cross Jesus asks us to carry into the voting booth is that which rises out of our Christian faith.
“Our decision as to how we vote should be grounded in our care for each other, and particularly for those who are most needy. Our civil society does not have a religious creed. We treasure our religious freedom, and our ability to worship and live our faith as we feel called, but we also believe that we are not stopped from allowing our faith to inform our vote.”
Bishop Deeley added that there are some fundamental things in that relationship with Jesus that can help guide our choices.
“Respect for the dignity of each human person is the core of Catholic social and moral teaching. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society,” said the bishop. “We focus on the common good, not our own personal interests. We ask, how can we make the world a better place, not how can I improve my own personal situation?”
Christians have a true obligation to form our consciences and participate in civic life.
“The Church affirms that every Catholic is called to prayerful, active, and responsible participation in the political process,” said Bishop Deeley. “As such, I urge all of us, who are eligible, to register and vote. This year, it seems important to note that Maine makes it convenient to vote absentee. The entire process can be done by mail. As such, we can vote without endangering our health.”
For more information about voting by mail in Maine, click here.
A special Faithful Citizenship section will be launched on Monday, August 31, on the Diocese of Portland’s website that offers a variety of resources, including a teaching document from the U.S. Bishops entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (in English and Spanish), a reflection from Bishop Deeley on our call to faithful citizenship, a novena for faithful citizenship, and much more.
“(Voting) should be done in the same way we live our Christian life,” said Bishop Deeley. “It needs to be grounded in prayer. Understanding our call to care for each other begins with our realization that we are cared for. In prayer, we find ourselves in a relationship with Jesus that assures us that we are loved. In that relationship of prayer with Jesus, we come to realize that he calls us to share ourselves with others and he gives us the grace to carry the cross he gives us. In fact, he walks with us. In voting, then, in fulfilling our faithful citizenship, we, indeed, carry the cross, because we live out the call to holiness and work with Christ as he builds his kingdom of love.”