On discerning who to vote for

A FRIEND of mine called me to say that he needed to talk. He and his aunt just had a heated conversation about the coming U.S. presidential election.

“I’m confused, Father,” he told me. “I’m not sure who to vote. As a Catholic, I need to vote for someone who upholds our values.”

We then discussed the issues that influence a Catholic vote: abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, immigration, religious liberty, the disparity between the rich and the poor, traditional marriage, gay rights, racism, sexual harassment, respect for women, and violence. We both realized that it would take a great deal of discernment and prayer to vote for a rightful candidate in this coming election.

At the end of our conversation, I told him, “Let’s vote according to a well-informed conscience.” He agreed, but still with some apprehension.

Indeed, along with resurging of coronavirus cases and deaths in our country, we’re facing another challenge, the presidential election and the deep division it ensues among us citizens. As many people have shared with me, we have to pray earnestly for our country.
Our Scripture readings this Sunday may help us in our discernment during the coming election.

The First Reading from the Book of Kings (1 Kings 3:5, 7-12) tells the story of Solomon. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. He told him, “Ask something of me, and I will give it to you.” After expressing his fear of merely being a youth and not knowing how to act, Solomon answered, “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

What we need a leader of this country is someone with a listening and understanding heart, someone with a mind that attends carefully and closely to people and appreciates the complexity of their situation to discern right from wrong.

It is someone who upholds dearly the Gospel and our moral values, notably respect for the dignity of every human person, compassion for the poor, and promotion of the common good, not one’s personal interest. It is someone whose values, vision, and mission are aligned with the “purpose of God,” as St Paul tells us today’s Second Reading (Romans 8:28-30)

Let’s pray that we can be like the fishermen in this Sunday’s parable (Matthew 13:44-52), who, after they haul a net full of fish, sit down to put what is good into buckets and throw away what is bad. Let’s have a prayerful discernment to make the right decisions in life, particularly in this coming presidential election.

In your discernment, I invite you to read the USCCB pastoral letter, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, A Call to Political Responsibility from Catholic Bishops of the United States.”

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

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