VIEWPOINTS: Move forward with Year of Mercy values postelection

People wait to vote at St. Francis Xavier Church in Washington, Nov. 8. This edition of Viewpoints looks at the question: How do we move on after a contentious election? (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

People wait to vote at St. Francis Xavier Church in Washington, Nov. 8. This edition of Viewpoints looks at the question: How do we move on after a contentious election? (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

(Viewpoints is our monthly series of op-ed articles offered to Catholic News Service clients. It presents two differing opinions on important Catholic issues.)

By Liz Quirin
Catholic News Service

No matter who won the national and local elections, we can all celebrate: It is indeed over, but what does that mean?

Liz Quirin is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill. (CNS photo)

Liz Quirin is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill. (CNS photo)

To paraphrase a sports legend: It isn’t over until it’s over, so we can’t just heave a contented sigh of relief and move on. Local discourse has been fractured, possibly forever. We have reached a new low in civility with physical violence sometimes a byproduct of all kinds of gatherings.

While each generation tests the limits of the previous one, I wonder if we haven’t pushed beyond any limit in civil society. And where is the church in this mix? It should be and is at the forefront, leading people to reflect on kindness, gentleness and mercy toward all, in all circumstances.

We are, after all, closing the Jubilee Year of Mercy this month. What better time than now to reflect on this year when parishes have developed and carried out ways to spread God’s mercy to all those we meet — except, of course, in the political arena, where we give no quarter.

Now, with a respite from voting for candidates, we can lick our political wounds and gird ourselves for the next “attack.” I urge those considering that line of thinking to take pity on those who need a break; show us mercy, not because the issues are no longer important. The break I long for is from the venomous and destructive language used to describe opponents.

Now we are ready to see what steps our elected officials will take to fulfill their promises.

The Year of Mercy gave us the opportunity to show the world how we view mercy and how we show mercy to others. Perhaps we should have “Year of Mercy Take Two” as we focus on the issues that burned so brightly for all of us during the campaigns. Those issues remain as important Nov. 9 as they did for those long months leading to our Election Day.

The immigration crisis remains as strong this day as it did all of last year. So far, nothing seems to have been done to make life more bearable for refugees. Electing someone will not solve the problem, but it will give us a chance to focus our efforts more clearly.

Racists won’t become “colorblind,” nor will abortion proponents suddenly join us on the picket lines to promote life for those yet to be born. People on death row will not have their sentences commuted and polluters will not suddenly become stricken by the depth and breadth of destruction caused by their lack of interest in preserving and protecting our earth.

Neither is there a Man in the Moon or Pie in the Sky. I hope we have no illusions about waving magic wands or flipping a switch to make the world a better place. What we have are opportunities to turn our attention to the human condition and to making changes that will promote human dignity and care for our environment and life issues from womb to tomb.

We, as Catholics, are a strong, determined and faith-filled people who are unafraid of hard work. We’ve listened to politicians and their messages for months now, and it is time for those who are now our elected representatives to stop talking and start listening to us.

We elected them, so they should be eager to see what we have to say. They have used the public square to hammer home their points, but it’s time for us to take over the discussion and turn their focus to the issues they promised to address. We can’t accept politics as usual because the stakes are too high and the time is much too short.

Time for congratulations and basking in the glow of victory was over as soon as the last vote was counted. Now, let’s get to the real work of making changes that will make life better for everyone, including God’s voters.

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Comments are welcome. Contact Liz Quirin at editor@bellevillemessenger.org

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