Patrick Walsh

We are about to enter two months of relentless conflict. It is likely to be for many of us an endless celebration of our individual correctness, and bombastic validation of our chosen “in groups.”

Of course emotions will be high since the health, well being and lives of so many hang in the balance of the outcome of the election in many varied ways. It is a time rife with temptation to rage, resent, and “right off.”

What if we focused on nothing but emptying ourselves during this time, to be filled with the grace of God to do nothing but love our brothers and sisters? What if every opportunity for our heads to explode was an opportunity to directly love people who make us feel that way? What if we drove away every thought of self-righteous condemnation and anger with actionable love?

We are rightly unsettled by the lack of love in the structure of our society. But the only answer to this apathy, this hurt, this injustice and this separation from God, is love.

My wife told me the other night to take the telephone pole out of my face before I point out the splinter in my brother’s eye. It can be so easy to see the splinters through the telephone poles though, and more comforting. The only antidote to anger and pride is love.

If we are to spend the next two months doing something before we do whatever we do in November, why not let it be focused on self emptying love? Attack ads, internet tirades and many various pandemic “treats” like junk food, drinks and take out are very satisfying during a time when we feel tired, angry and uncertain.

But it is hard for God to speak to us through endless streams of intellectual and physical satisfaction. And we aren’t going to do a great job loving, if we can’t hear or feel God. If we can’t hear him pushing us to love the person most frustrating to us, we are less likely to open our heart to them.

It really isn’t our job to change people’s minds about anything, although a lot of time and energy is spent in this way. Our job is to love our brothers and sisters such that we create space for God to enter all our hearts. Our job is to prepare our hearts to receive grace and cooperate with it. Our job is to be humble enough to identify with the people we can’t stand.

It is unlikely we’ll change anyone’s mind about anything related to this election. But everybody can bring grace and love to our friends and family that we’d much rather “teach a lesson” to.

Love transforms us. The act of doing it begets more. In the “Brothers Karamazov” Dostoyevsky leaves us a beautiful explanation of our sacred duty:

“Love will teach us all things: but we must learn how to win love; it is got with difficulty: it is a possession dearly bought with much labor and in long time; for one must love not sometimes only, for a passing moment, but always. There is no man who doth not sometimes love: even the wicked can do that … love a man even in his sin, for that love is a likeness of the divine love, and is the summit of love on earth.”

***

Patrick Walsh manages Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry at Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center. He can be reached at pwalsh@chs-adphila.org. More information about Martha’s Choice, a beneficiary of the Catholic Charities Appeal, can be found at www.marthaschoicemarketplace.com.