What does the reading for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time have to do with the upcoming elections? As we move toward the election season, we see only one thing on the part of all political parties, a combination of self-righteousness and the need to put the other party down. We already see the comments comparing our current president with monkeys, people of the Islamic faith, another favorite whipping boy of the right, and other foreign nationals. If you identify as a liberal you must support abortion, and if you support conservatives, you must believe every nut must own a gun. There is Trump with his wig and the outrageous other statements constantly coming out of the far right.
The first reading and St. Paul in the second reading point out what is missing in all of this, a meaningful discussion of any issues that might make this nation a better nation. Proverbs tells us:
Who is thoughtless, turn now’; the defective of heart, she says: Come, eat my bread and drink my wine. (The Hebrew word is ‘wine,) which I have mixed. Forsake the living death of foolishness, and live. Walk in the way of building up (other people.) If you correct a scorner, you bring to yourself shame. If you reprove those who think themselves first, it comes to him a blot. Do not correct a scorner; he will grind his teeth against you. Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Look at the phrase, “Defective of heart.” This is the literal Hebrew for the passage. The wise man has a soft heart. In Psalm 95, which religious Catholics pray every morning in the Liturgy of the Hours, it tells us not to harden our hearts. When Jesus tells the parable of the sower, what is the difference between the good soil and the bad soil? The bad soil is the path; otherwise, it is identical to the good soil. The path is stepped upon and in the process of being stepped upon becomes hard. The good soil is aerated/fancy Latin for spiritual. As a result, it is soft.
To those of defective heart, Wisdom tells us to come to communion, receive the spirit, and become soft again. We are to walk in the way of building up of other people. The Hebrew word for understanding is related to the word for a house, the verb form of which means to build. When we understand others, we build them up. Do not compare those who disagree with us with fools, foreigners we might not like, or animals. When we see others doing this, it is a sign we are dealing with people who do not yet have the spirit, liberal and conservative alike.
Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are rotten. Do not continue in ignorance, but try to build up what is the will of the NAME. Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the NAME in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Kyrie Jesus Christ to God the Father.
Making the most of every opportunity means trying to find points in common with those we disagree with, not calling them names. Focus upon what is God’s will. Read Deuteronomy 5:1-7 and other places: we are to see God in every person we see and we are to see in every person we see the great E Pluribus Unum, From the Many One, fellow travelers, (The Greek word is parochial/parish) people rescued from over there, (wherever of there is) to over here. We find room when greeting others, positive things to sings psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We find room to sing and play to the NAME in our hearts, giving thanks, not just in liturgy, but in life. There is no room in this for name-calling. Does this mean we must agree in everything? No! Following Jesus’ example in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, it means we acknowledge our differences while working for common ground. It means following St’ Peter’s example when he first meets Jesus in Luke and says, “Get away from me, for I am a deviant.” We do not compare ourselves with those we deem to be inferior to ourselves, but to God.
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.