I just got back from a fun weekend in Chicago with my husband. We went to Sunday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral there, which is a lovely church indeed. This past Sunday's readings provided a lot of food for thought in these days right before the election. I learned a while ago that there is generally a connection between the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings at Mass. Sometimes the connection can be hard to tease out...it was late last night when I finally thought about this.
The first reading is from Isaiah (45:1, 4-6), which is one of the prophetic books of the Bible. The prophet Isaiah talks about God giving authority to Cyrus, one of the great kings of ancient Persia. Cyrus was the king who released the Jews from Babylon and permitted them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Although Cyrus was not a Jew, God was able to act through him for His own purposes.
In the Gospel reading (Mt 22:15-21), the Pharisees are trying to test Jesus. They ask him if it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar. (I love how they try to flatter Jesus at the beginning, saying he always speaks truthfully. They were right, but didn't know it!) Then Jesus holds up the Roman coin and says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's." What does this mean? It would seem that Jesus is telling us to recognize that Caesar would have no earthly authority unless God permitted it. This links up to the Old Testament reading - even pagan kings can be instruments of God's purpose.
What does this mean for us today? We are in the middle of an election season that has been very heated and intense. I will be honest and say that I do not want Barack Obama to win. His positions on abortion are completely unacceptable to me, as they should be for any Catholic. If he carries out his promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law, he will deal a serious legal blow to the pro-life movement by effectively lifting all state restrictions on abortion. This is an infringement on the states' authority, not to mention gravely immoral. I am one of very few people at my workplace who supports McCain. He is not a perfect candidate by any means, but he recognizes that we have to defend the defenseless.
I and other McCain supporters have not given up yet, but things are looking bleak. The nation's love affair with Barack Obama continues strong. No revelation about his true character or the ideology of his close friends will deter his fans. I have heard him referred to as our "savior" and "our only hope," terms that are indecent to use about any mere man. I hold fast to Psalm 146:3 "Put not your trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save." Barack Obama is just a man, he is by no means the Second Coming!
BUT, at the same time, I have to recognize that if he IS elected - somehow, that is God-willed and part of God's plan. Perhaps it will be a wake-up call for a nation that has been sluggish and complacent in defending the rights of the innocent and helpless. If Obama is elected, I won't be happy, but I will acknowledge his authority. I will pray for God to give him strength and wisdom - and I have faith that God who softened the heart of Pharaoh can do the same for Obama.
I am going to pray and fast before the election, not that my chosen candidate will win, but that God's will be done. Never doubt the power of prayer to work miracles.