When I was checking out our Gospel for this Sunday, I’ll be honest that I completely skimmed it. It’s on par with the Parable of the Sower, one you’ve heard so often that you can practically predict the priest’s homily verbatim. This Sunday’s Gospel is Matthew 22:34-40, when the scholar asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment, and Jesus responds,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
We’ve been hearing this passage since we were preschoolers drooling in front of another episode of Veggie Tales. But here we are, just over a week away from a presidential election in 2020. And I think everyone, including myself, needs to bear in mind that second commandment as we talk about our presidential candidates.
You don’t have to like President Trump. You don’t have to agree with all of his policies or decisions over the last four years. Since emotions aren’t objectively good or bad, you can feel whatever emotions you feel towards him. But he is your neighbor.
You don’t have to like former Vice President Joe Biden. You don’t have to agree with all of his policies or decisions over the last several decades. Since emotions aren’t objectively good or bad, you can feel whatever emotions you feel towards him. But he is your neighbor.
Before they are politicians, public figures, or images used for memes, they are men loved into existence by the God of the universe. When the Second Person of the Trinity became a zygote in the womb of the Virgin, he became a zygote for Biden. He fled to Egypt for Trump. He preached for these men. He suffered for these sons. In every moment of Christ’s agony, He saw and loved and offered Himself for Biden. As He took His final ragged breath, it was taken for Trump. Christ was born for all. Christ lived for all. Christ died for all. And “all” includes the politicians whose humanity we so readily forget.
It makes sense why it’s easy to dehumanize politicians. It’s not like I’ve ever sat down with the President for coffee and had a nice heart-to-heart with him. Our votes this election aren’t for which candidate we’re better friends with. Our votes are for policies and for the creation of a government in which all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And as we hope and fear for our own rights and the rights of others, it’s natural to become so focused on policy that we forget that those who govern our nation are, for better or for worse, not robots. They are not cartoon figures that we are allowed to mock and belittle. They are our neighbors. They are neighbors who may or may not love the Lord, their God, but who are most certainly loved by Him to the point of death.
If Jesus died for our presidential candidates just as He died for us, He rose for our presidential candidates just as He rose for us. This means that it should be our hope and prayer to one day meet Donald Trump and Joe Biden at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. “Are they worthy of that feast?” you (and I) ask. That’s not the question at hand. The question is, “Are you worthy?” Have you conducted yourself in such a way that when you enter into the Communion of Saints and therefore into a profound union with the souls of these fellow neighbors, you will be able to do so shamelessly? Will you be able to worship Christ alongside them without the guilt of a cruel comment, rude statement, judgmental sigh, or vindictive Instagram story share?
As for me, I praise God for the Confessional. But I want to do more than simply sigh and add another snide remark to the list. I want to do more than congratulate myself for not being like THOSE pharisees who are making death threats on Twitter. I want to love heroically. I want to be passionate about my desires for the country without losing my passion for the souls of every human, for the souls of Biden and Trump. Because if the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves, how sorry would it be for me to vote in the name of love but refuse to love the neighbor presented so vulnerably on television with faults for all to see?
As we near the end of 2020, I’m tired, and aren’t we all. But the dehumanization of men created in God’s image and likeness merely exacerbates our weariness. Today is St. Anthony Mary Claret’s Feast Day, and he writes, “Because he is concerned also for his neighbor, the man of zeal works to fulfill his desire that all men be content on this earth and happy and blessed in their heavenly homeland, that all may be saved, and that no one may perish for ever, or offend God, or remain even for a moment in sin.” We must continue to canvass, protest injustice, and advocate for the future of our nation. But as Christians, we are called to be that sign of contradiction so little understood by the secular world. We are called to be Christ who prays and mortifies and offers Himself for both His friends and His enemies. I have a challenge for you this weekend. As you go to Mass, offer it for whichever candidate you find more difficult to love or see as human.
One of my favorite quotes was spoken to me and 400 of my closest friends at Destination Jesus 2019 by a Sister of Life: “God doesn’t just love you. He likes you.” When you reach the end of your life and see the Father for the first time, He will love you. He will like you. But in that moment your infinitely good Judge will present you with every human being you have known, either personally or through the media. Praise God, He won’t ask you, “Did you like him?” But He will ask, “Did you love him?” May our timelines, feeds, and tongues bow in docility to Christ’s command to love our neighbor.