“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” Matthew 7:24-25
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, our Lord tells the crowd that a wise man builds his house on a rock, lest a house built on the sand crumbles into the sea. I am reminded of the movie Twister when Bill and Jo are running from a tornado through a sunflower field, and they realize they cannot outrun the massive storm and instead hide in a water house. They strap themselves on and hold tight to the water pipes with all their strength. Their feet fly in the air, but with the deep pipes rooted in the ground, the funnel cannot sweep them away. When the winds stop, Bill and Jo land in the grass and open their eyes to find the little shelter is gone. The clouds clear and the sun reappears. They can emerge and survey the damage. The farm is left in total chaos, but Bill and Jo survive. They can stop and breathe and figure out their next steps.
These past fourteen months have been like that, haven’t they? The world has been a tornado around us, full of news of disease and depression swirling around us. So, what is our deep water pipe? Where is our anchor as we wait for our winds to clear and we can reemerge? This pipe is not a physical stronghold as much as it is an innate truth that we hold tight. When our thoughts, prayers, and actions center around a known fact, we can reassess our reality with some clarity and peace.
Along with a pandemic and a civil rights awakening, 2020 also brought to light a wider-than-ever political divide in our country. The extreme blue left seems to have a complete disregard for human life on the outskirts, calling for deregulating any and all pro-life laws at the beginning of life and at the end. And the apparent fear-mongering red right shows contempt for any government mandate that seemingly tramples on personal freedoms. Where does that leave the rest of us in the middle? Where do we ground amidst a vast spectrum of “truths?” When does it return to the “us” and not the “me”?
As Christians, how do we vote? What takes precedence when we make choices for the good of our community? How do we know what is best for us and for our neighbor? There are so many “truths” hurled at us from so many directions!
“The purpose of life and community is for the love of God, and for the love of the other. All social teaching stems from this truth.”
Jesus was tested by Pharisees and experts of the law, when asked “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him,* “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 the 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.” Matthew 22:36-40.
For a Christian, the purpose of life and community is for the love of God, and for the love of the other. All social teaching stems from this truth. If it doesn’t glorify God, then it can’t glorify the other. The themes all acknowledge that we are created in God’s divine image and that our priority is the love of all of God’s creation. When these truths sit at the core of our voting choices our society stands strong. Our United States can stand like the house built on rock in Jesus’ parable. Our country is that house, and the rock is the truth of love. We cannot fall when we come together for the good of the other first. A united front stands strong.
The heart of the Themes of Social Teaching of the Catholic Church centers on our shared human dignity and that we are all connected in solidarity with one another. The other themes flow from that truth that we are inseparable as a human family. We have a shared call and responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable. All of those seven themes work together to preserve one another’s dignity.
A common fear is “if I care for the other, who will look out for me?” This is the beauty of faith in the solidarity of the universal Christian church. When we hold tight to the New Commandment from our Lord, we trust that others will have our best interests at heart. There is an old fable that can be attributed to Rabbi Haim. The allegory tells of people with long spoons. In hell, everyone is hungry because no one is able to feed themselves with the long spoon. One peers into heaven, and asks how everyone there is so healthy and happy. They see those in heaven feeding one another.
Let us remain tethered to the good news that we are not alone, and that we have Truth in God’s love for us. Let us always hold tight to that truth, even amidst all of the loud voices coming from every direction. It is overwhelming to remain strong when we hear fear and blame and attacks thrown around. But the strength of our nation depends on our love for God and for each other. When that tornado stops swirling, we know we will be able to come out from the rubble and begin anew in peace.
Emily Clary is a Catholic youth minister and Religion teacher. She has worked in schools and parishes in the Diocese of Providence, Raleigh, and currently in Charlotte. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and three children. She writes to encourage the Christian family to remember we are all interconnected and that our choices affect one another.