The readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Aug 12) continue the bread of life discourse. The second reading Ephesians 4:30-5:2 takes up a different theme. We should heed it as we head into this spite-filled election season. Paul urges the Ephesians:
As I read the news of campaign tactics on both sides, as I look at the postings on my Facebook page, and as I skim the emails forwarded to me, I hear words of bitterness, rage, anger and slander. Even if this bitterness does not directly lead to mass shootings as at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, the person who harbors it suffers the effects of stress. Someone wrote that harboring resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other fellow to die. Resentment can be directed against other people, things or groups. In each case it is equally harmful to the person who holds it. Society is harmed as well. The anger that we carry spills over to others, even though we may try to keep it to ourselves.
In 2004 I wrote a post about Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder. Some of my friends were convinced that it would be a tragedy if the other candidate were elected. (i.e. Bush or Kerry). A few even began to feel as if the fate of the nation depended on their efforts in behalf of their favored candidate. One even feared he might have a heart attack if Bush won. (He didn't.) While I could acknowledge their passion, the fact remained that spreading anger generated stress in the person spreading it.
The best cure for resentment is to pray for the person (or thing) who is the target of our resentment. We can pray for him / her every day whether we feel like it or not, calling down blessings of health, happiness and prosperity. Before too long, the feeling of anger will be relieved. The situation may not change, the target of resentment may still be acting unjustly. Confrontation and action may still be required - but we will be in a position to do it calmly and effectively.
What would happen to our political discourse and institutions if stalwart Republicans began to pray for Obama and loyal Democrats would pray for Romney?
While I'm at it, I can at least pray for those who are sending me emails and Facebook postings filled with bitterness at their opposing candidate.