October 11, 2020
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
We’ve come to the 3rd parable addressed by Jesus to the chief priests and elders in Matthew’s Gospel. As we’ve learned from the first 2 parables over the past 2 Sundays, even though the religious leaders of Israel were Jesus’ original audience, these parables are also addressed directly to us, because we are all in need of conversion.
Today’s parable of “The Wedding Feast” has an ending unique to Matthew’s Gospel, serving as a warning to Matthew’s community of faith and to ours as well. It is the encounter between the King and the man who is at the feast without a wedding garment. Since those invited refused the invitation and this man was then invited to the feast off the street in his street clothes, we think the punishment he receives is not fair. However, this parable is not about a guy who refuses to show up at a wedding banquet in suit and tie, but symbolically about participating in the wedding feast by being clothed in Christ, the bridegroom.
Think about the words spoken by the minister to the newly baptized as they are clothed in a white garment: “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ,” words which echo St. Paul’s injunction, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14)
In other words, the Christian is to be “another Christ.” We, who have been clothed in Christ Jesus from our baptism, are to lay down our lives in loving service of others as Jesus did. To do so, we cannot come to this wedding banquet of the Eucharist and passively watch, but are to actively participate with Christ Jesus in offering our lives to the Father for the salvation of the world and the establishment of His Kingdom: a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
We are not only invited to this feast of God’s love, but also challenged to respond to God’s love for us by living every moment as Christ with Christ.
When voting in this year’s presidential election, we are to clothe ourselves with the mind of Christ and the heart of Christ, with the very person of Christ. While doing our civic duty, we are being challenged to put our faith into practice. In this light, the Catholic bishops of the United States offer a guide to Catholic voters every presidential election year entitled: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”
Archbishop Coakley states that “[T]his document is intended to be…an official guide for the formation of consciences…” and that “the Gospel cannot be parsed in political or partisan terms. The Gospel calls us to live by standards and our Catholic faith calls us to embrace standards that are not divisible into left or right, Republican or Democratic terminology.” (Aug. 30, 2020 issue of Sooner Catholic, page 7, paragraphs 8 & 9) As we read the bishops’ document and pray with it, we discover that there is no politician nor political party which embraces all the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Article 34 of this document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” reads: “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” That “IF” is a big “IF” as the bishops go on to say: “In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.” Article 34 then concludes: “At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”
What is interesting to note in Article 34 is that besides abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and gay marriage, the bishops also list as “intrinsically evil” policies “deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions” as well as policies promoting “racist behavior.” Once again, that little word “if” is super important, because a Catholic is in trouble only “if the voter’s intent is to support that position,” meaning supporting a candidate specifically for any of these intrinsically evil policies.
So, a Catholic Republican can vote for Trump, even if his policies promote racism or subject immigrants and refugees to subhuman living conditions, as long as the voter’s intent is not to support those positions. And a Catholic Democrat can vote for Biden, even if his policies promote abortions and gay marriage, as long as the voter’s intent is not to support those positions. In Catholic theology, intention – why you are doing something— is essential to understanding the morality of an action.
Paragraph 35 of “Faithful Citizenship” acknowledges the messy world of politics, where a candidate may disagree with church teaching on an important issue but a Catholic might still vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.
“There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for true grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”
Thus, a Catholic Republican might feel impelled to vote for Trump despite his policies promoting racism or subjecting immigrants to subhuman living conditions, because of other morally grave reasons, for example, his stated opposition to abortion. A Catholic Democrat might feel impelled to vote for Biden despite his position on abortion and gay marriage because of other morally grave reasons, for example his positions on racism and immigration.
A careful reading of this document of the U.S. Bishops means those who say Catholics who vote for Biden are bad Catholics or are committing a mortal sin have no grounds for such a statement. Members of both major political parties accuse and demonize the other side, and we who clothe ourselves in Christ are called to reject such divisive behavior. Those who make such accusations are acting like the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus’ day by condemning others without ever knowing their conscience. For we who clothe ourselves with Christ know there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, there is neither Democrat nor Republican, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. (cf Galatians 3:28)
Which leads those of us who desire to daily “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” to consider what being “Pro-Life” truly means. To be “Pro-Life” means to respect life at all stages, to honor the dignity of every human life from conception to a natural death. This is a seamless garment of life proposed by Church teaching, this teaching which is for life for all people at all times.
For example, the Church’s teaching on the evil of racism touches on many other issues of justice which impact the life of a person of color. The Church pledges to walk with a mother of color throughout her pregnancy, to provide her with the support necessary to choose life for her child. But the Church does not stop there.
Recognizing that the structures of racism have imprisoned many people of color in poverty, the Church works to change these structures. At the same time, the Church promotes policies for affordable childcare and transportation, so that this mother can work, and calls for her to be paid a living wage, so she can provide for her child and herself.
Acknowledging that those who are poor, especially people of color, tend to live where pollution is the worst and are impacted more severely by natural disasters, the Church also works to address the climate crisis in the Spirit of St. Francis and guided by the teachings of Pope Francis.
Because the death penalty disproportionately kills people of color, and because the killing of any life by the State is contrary to the commandment, “Thou shall not kill”, the Church also speaks out against the death penalty.
To be “Pro-Life” means much more than protecting the innocent child in the womb. It also means addressing all the issues that unjustly impact that child’s life once born.
The invitation to the wedding feast of the Eucharist, this invitation to share in the life and love of the Son of God, requires an ongoing conversion of life. In order to truly become what we receive, the Body of Christ, we are challenged to more fully conform our thoughts with the mind of Christ, to more fully align our actions with the heart of Christ. To protect and respect all life so that anyone who meets us will think they have met Jesus himself.