Making Choices

Our God is very tolerant and generous with us, but there is a limit to his patience.

Throughout the Bible, including the example of Zacchaeus, we see how God searches out for the lost.  He gives the wayward sinner time to come to his senses, and freely choose to begin his conversion.  “He corrects little by little those who have fallen.  You remind and warn them of the things whereby they sin, so that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord” (Ws 12:2).

It is obvious that God loves every human being.  “For you love all things that exist, and have loathing for none of the things which you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.  How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? …You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, who loves the living.  For your immortal spirit is in all things” (Ws 11:25-6).

You and I probably have prejudices, or hold some people in contempt.  But God is impartial – He has no favorites. Jesus died for every single person.  But notice what must be added to all this. Each person must respond to that love.

God will not force us to love him.  God gave us our freedom and our intelligence.  He placed us in this world for 70-80 years and left us to our own devices, to make our own choices.  When the world goes crazy, when it ignores God and his plan for us, when the whole world goes to war as it did twice in the past century, or when a country decides it’s OK to kill unwanted babies or to redefine marriage so that it applies now to anyone who thinks he or she is in love with someone else, when all these calamities happen, we should not expect God to intervene and automatically pull us out of the mess we have created for ourselves.

God gives us our freedom and our intelligence.  We must use them to give sensible guidance to our lives, and to the world we live in.  We must make good choices.

Notice that we must search for God, we must find proof for God’s existence.  For many people, God is not obvious.  They can either ignore him or deny his existence.  We have to freely choose to search for God, to use our powers of faith and reason.  Everyone can find God, but they must want to.

Many people have a very weak sense of right and wrong, of morality.  Think of all the ways people today will justify doing whatever they want.  So we have to search for good principles that will give good direction to our lives.  We must come to understand that if something is evil, like contraception, then why it is evil?  And if something else is good, like NFP, then why it is good? God expects us, no, He insists upon, that we come to understand what all goes into a good life, and then to freely choose to put that plan for goodness into our lives.

We live in a democracy.  That means a self-governed people; a nation of, by and for the people. We hold our elected representatives accountable to our values.  Ours is a government with the consent of the governed.  It is our obligation to select public officials who will defend and advocate our basic values and principles.  If they violate those basic values and principles, then we must correct them, or remove them.

Our national elections are approaching.  We have a responsibility, as citizens and as Catholics, to seriously examine the positions and voting record of all the candidates.  We do not want people, who will attack our cherished principles and values, to have a position of power over us.  The Catholic Bishops of Kansas have given us a good set of guidelines for responsible voting. Archbishop Naumann has written some very penetrating columns in The Leaven.  He reminds us that in choosing a president, we are also choosing the next group of Cabinet members who wield great authority in determining public policy, and we are choosing future Supreme Court and federal judges.  It would be irresponsible to ignore these realities.   We are responsible for being true citizens, responsible citizens who encourage good people to run for public office.

Every four years the US Bishops write a document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, to help us understand the Gospel message in light of today’s realities.  Specifically, the bishops remind us of “the preeminent requirement to protect human life” in all of its stages from conception through a natural death, and how we ought to “protect the fundamental understanding of marriage as the life-long and faithful union of one man and one woman as the central institution of society.”  These two concerns are high on our list of priorities as Catholics. They also encourage us to consider other issues such as immigration reform, ensuring a preferential option for the poor and economic justice for all; providing health care which respects life, ensuring full conscience protection and religious freedom, caring for creation, promoting peace and justice while countering violence and unjust discrimination – both here and abroad (FCFC 92).

What happens if no major candidate fully satisfies our expectations?  Not voting, or writing in a third party name, doesn’t go anywhere.  Our bishops advise us to vote for the candidate “considered less likely to advance morally flawed positions and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods” (FCFC 36).  Perhaps a candidate can grow into their position of power, and discern what is morally right.

We are well advised to search out good voter and issue guides to help learn about the candidates’ views and record.

Prayer and forming one’s conscience correctly are good ways to prepare for voting.  Archbishop Chaput reminds us that prayer involves more than mumbling a Hail Mary before we pull the voting booth lever.  Prayer is a conversation, an engagement of the soul with God.  

God gave us our freedom and our intelligence.  God leaves the choices to us.  We must make decisions.  We must learn to make good choices.  If we want our democracy to survive and flourish, then we must resist a perversion of the principles on which American democracy rests, like the sanctity of all human life, and God’s plan for marriage and family.  We must resist a deterioration that reduces freedom to simple willfulness (to doing whatever I want).   We need to reclaim the principles that Catholic social doctrine calls the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity.

May we all continue to learn how to make good decisions, decisions we can live with, decisions that will advance human flourishing, and promote the Kingdom of God.  The time will come when we must give an accounting for all the decisions we made in this life.  When that time comes, may we have many things in which we can take justified pride.