As the election draws near, pray!

 Friday, 30 September 2016

The theme of the beggar is one that occasionally arises in the Scriptures, but that presents itself in a particularly powerful way. The beggar is characterized by lowliness, poverty, hunger; by one who yearns for the fundamental needs of life to be fulfilled.

In particular, Bartimaeus strikes me as one of the most important beggars in all of Scripture (see Mk 10:46-52). In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the markets of Jericho, Bartimaeus—a blind man—finds himself on the roadside. Upon hearing of the coming of Christ, Bartimaeus cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Though Bartimaeus is rebuked by those around him—including the disciples—and called to silence, he cries out all the more: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” With the gaze of mercy that Christ alone offers, Jesus poses a basic, open-ended question to Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Msgr. Luigi Giussani beautifully expresses the supreme dignity of the beggar in the following way: “The real protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man’s heart, and man’s heart that begs for Christ.” Msgr. Giussani finds that the main character in the theater of life is the beggar. It is the beggar who stands at the center of all creation. The first beggar is Christ. And, in imitation of the first beggar, we find ourselves begging for Christ who alone “has the words of everlasting life” (Jn 6:68).

As we approach the election, we have a critical opportunity to recognize our own situation as a beggar who lives in a political community. In this recognition, we understand that as citizens in this earthly pilgrimage we have fundamental needs and desires for justice, truth, peace, common good. But the beggar recognizes that these basic needs are fulfilled not by our own doing, but by the work of another. The beggar has nothing to offer—he is poor, needy, lacking. The beggar depends on the charity of one who is rich in mercy, by one who looks upon the state of the beggar and can do nothing but to fulfill the needs of the beggar in his lowliness. But it is Christ alone who can fulfill such demanding needs. Only Christ can gaze upon our lowliness and adequately satisfy our thirsts for justice, truth, peace, common good.

As election politics further engages into full throttle as November nears, there will be the grave temptation to fall prey to the demagoguery of political candidates who offer any number of seemingly salvific solutions to the broken situation of our humanity. But, as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states in its document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: “The struggles that we face as a nation and as a global community cannot be addressed solely by choosing the ‘best candidate’ for political office.” While we are called to form our consciences to vote for virtuous and faithful candidates, we are called even more deeply to “fast and pray, asking our loving and gracious God to give us the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our daily witness to our faith and its teachings.”

Returning to the theme of the beggar and the figure of Bartimaeus, let us cry out to Christ, the Son of David, the Merciful One. Even as the culture of death further attempts to silence the cry of those with faith in God, let us cry out all the more. It is in this moment that Christ turns to each of us with that same basic, open-ended question He posed to Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”

As the election draws near, I encourage you to run toward Christ and join the Bishops of the United States to “ask humbly in prayer for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on the United States of America.” In the same way that Christ fulfilled Bartimaeus’ desire for sight, I am confident God will respond to this desire for the Spirit. As the Psalm states: “[T]he Lord listens to the needy” (Ps 69:34).