November 14, 2016 — After an incredibly contentious election season, what hope do we have to come together as a nation? Many may be frustrated with the results, while others may be content. In today’s political environment, there seems to be neither middle ground nor room for reconciliation. As people shaped by Ignatian spirituality, perhaps one way to find hope would be to do an Examen to prayerfully reflect on where we find ourselves after the final ballots have been tallied.
First, we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us recognize God’s steadfast mercy and love for us. We recall God’s faithfulness in our lives and find concrete reasons to be grateful. Instead of focusing on our own reaction to the election results, we consider how God might encourage us at this particular moment. One might pray with the words of Saint Teresa of Ávila: “Let nothing disturb you, nothing distress you; everything passes, God never changes; patience overcomes everything; whoever has God lacks nothing,God alone suffices.”
Then, we ask where we find God after the polls have closed. We can grow quite attached to “our” candidates, so it may be difficult to let go if "our” candidates lose. In contrast, if “our” candidates win, we can be blinded by our elation and may unwittingly attribute divine qualities to human political figures. So, we turn to God to give us the freedom to keep things in proper perspective. Whether “our” candidates have won or lost, we place our hope in God’s hands and pray for those elected, as Pope Francis encourages us, “that they can govern well, that they can love their people, that they can serve their people, that they can be humble.”
|Kyle Shinseki, SJ, speaking at the 2015 Jesuit Mass for Life in Washington, DC||
Next, we must humbly ask God to help us see where we ourselves have been lacking in faith, hope, and love during the campaigns. While we may have initially been motivated by faith, we may have let our worries, insecurities, or even anger take over. Were we afraid of losing our way of life or certain rights and freedoms? Have we felt threatened by another’s point of view? Is there a time where we could only see someone from an opposing party as the “enemy” and not as a person created in God’s image? Are we able to recognize how these moments distanced us from God, and then ask God to forgive and heal us?
In order to move forward, we need to recognize that God continues to work through our all-too-human nature. We ask for the grace to find God at work, even on “the other side of the aisle.” We can only do this if we define ourselves not by who or what we are against, but rather by who and what we are for. As Christians, our lives are to be oriented toward Christ and building God’s kingdom. When we define ourselves in this positive way, we open ourselves to finding common ground and are then able to move toward the future with hope.
Kyle Shinseki, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit Province. He is currently studying theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in California. He previously was coordinator for Asian/Pacific Islander Initiatives in the Division of Student Life at Creighton University in Omaha, where he also served as chaplain and adjunct lecturer in the Heider College of Business.