As we are voting this year, I think we all recognize that there are some problems in our democracy.
We see the obvious things — the polarization, the lack of charity and civility in how we talk about our differences; we see the struggles that our political leaders seem to have in working together and compromising for the common good.
But the deeper questions about our democracy begin in the human heart: Who are we and why?
Unless we know what it means to be a human being, we cannot know how to create a society that will be good for human beings. We cannot know what justice is, what a good life is, what the best way is for us to live and work.
Our society today tells us that we humans are “expressive individuals” — that we have no necessary relationships with others; that our only obligation is to pursue our own desires.
Because our society thinks about the human person in these terms, we often see messages and agendas in our culture that promote this idea that people must be totally free to define their own happiness, and that nothing should stand in the way of how they want to live.
But what society today is telling us is not what human life is all about.
Following this path does not make people happy. We see that in the widespread addictions and mental illnesses, in the epidemics of abuse and suicide. And much of the violence and injustice in our society can be traced to this self-seeking vision of the human person, which leads to an indifference toward the needs of others.
The truth is that we do not create ourselves. To be human is to be a “creature,” to be created. We come into this world as male or female. We are born into families and communities, we have relatives and histories.
We are not isolated individuals. We have a basic need to be loved and cared for and we have a basic need to love and care for others. We are made to belong and to be in relationships — with other people, with the world we live in, and with our Creator.
Our Creator has revealed to us that he is a Father, that he made us in his image and likeness, that he gave us not only our bodies, but our souls. And our Creator makes each of us for a reason. He has a plan, a loving destiny for each of our lives.
America was built on the foundation of these basic religious truths about the human person.
Our founders insisted that democracy cannot be maintained without religion and the virtues and values that religion brings, especially the virtues of personal discipline and the values of family and community.
And we need to remember: This country’s founding commitments to equality and human rights have no foundation apart from this belief in a Creator who endows men and women with inalienable rights.
That is why the indifference toward religion in American public life and the marginalizing of religious believers is so disturbing.
And that is why even beyond this election, our mission as the Church and our duty as Catholics remains bigger than politics.
We are here to serve God and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of his kingdom.
We do that first by living faithfully as Jesus teaches us to live, even when his commandments and priorities for our lives are not popular or are opposed by our culture and society.
The most important thing we can do right now as Catholics in America is to strengthen and share our faith, with joy and with confidence.
Now is the time to build up our parishes, schools, families, and communities. We need to pray together, read the Bible together, find new ways to gather and support one another in living our faith.
We need to see our lives and our world in light of the Christian “story,” in light of the Gospels and New Testament, in light of God’s ongoing plan of love in history.
Most important of all, we need to be deliberate and vigilant about passing on this story — our Catholic way of life — to the younger generation.
As Catholics, we need to witness to what human life really means. We do that by serving our neighbors with sacrifice and love, by caring for the elderly and vulnerable, by helping mothers and their children, by helping married couples and families to grow and thrive.
This project is far greater than politics. But this is what we are here for. And if we live our faith with generous and grateful hearts, we can renew the soul of our nation.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
And let us entrust this great nation to Mary our Blessed Mother and her Immaculate Heart.