In the face of recent political developments, our skepticism about the electoral system, government, the media, and social media has significantly increased. A deep discontent with unaddressed concerns continues to simmer. Those now in power favor abortion on demand, redefining the family, and a variety of other initiatives inimical to Judeo-Christian values. Many people of faith are angry and disheartened. What do we as American Catholics do?
Conquer evil by doing good.
Do so concentrically. Start from the inside and work your way outwards.
We begin within our own hearts. Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart.’ [i] We must recognize our own need for conversion, which is a lifelong process. In this life we will never arrive to the point of not needing to say ‘I’m sorry.’ St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.”[ii] Therefore we pray, attend Mass, go to confession, seek out spiritual direction, and attend retreats so that through these means Jesus may constantly renew our hearts.
However, precisely because our own conversion is ongoing, it does not mean that we wait for some perceived perfection before reaching out to help others. Rather, while giving primacy to our own spiritual growth, we simultaneously seek to do good where God has placed us.
The first sphere of action beyond our own hearts should be our immediate family. The Catechism tells us, ‘The family is the original cell of social life... Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society’ . We should not try to save the world at the expense of our own family. Nurture the well-being of each member and strengthen the bonds of unity. Strive as a family to love God and one another. This translates into spending time with each other, especially dinners, Sunday Mass, prayer, and some recreational time. Eat, pray, and play together… so that you stay together. As the family goes, so goes society. Therefore, a healthy, faith-filled family is the greatest gift to its members and to society.
The next sphere of influence is with the extended family. Cultivating the relationship with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins benefits everyone, but especially the children. They will know who they are and from whence they came. This enriches their sense of security and identity, empowering them to, in their turn, do good to others. Be available to help extended family in their practical and spiritual needs. This is God’s original ‘social network.’
Third, do good amidst the various communities to which you belong – your neighborhood, your parish, your school, and the workplace. Be honest, hard-working, kind, and willing to help. Let them see the hope that is within you through your words and actions. Speak to them about Jesus. While you desire to contribute to the nation’s well-being, most of your influence will be on a local level.
Giving priority to your everyday spheres of influence neither precludes a broader reach nor a particular mission. For some it may be to reach out to the suffering and the lonely. For others, it may be to accompany youth and young adults in their faith and life journey by listening, encouraging, and yes, giving advice. Some will even be called to do good through politics.
Ultimately, Christians are called to imbue every facet of our society with the values of the Gospel. Prayerfully discern where God is asking you to do good. Your talents, interests, and opportunities are a good indication of where to start looking. If God needs you to do something extraordinary for our country, he will let you know and give you the grace.
Yes, there is evil in our society. Nevertheless, goodness, which is rooted in God, is stronger than evil. Therefore, do not lose heart. Never doubt the power of simple acts of kindness or the often quiet but constant self-sacrificial love our daily duties require of us. Be intentional and do good to conquer evil.
May God bless you, and may God bless America.
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Image: by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash