Elections for peace

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

If Christ were physically present with us today as a Filipino citizen, whom would he vote for our national elections? This is a focus of discernment that we need to listen to and follow in our deepest conscience. This will inevitably lead us to what Christ has in store for us, which he lovingly expresses in today’s Gospel reading: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn. 14: 27).

Christ’s legacy of peace is the fruit of love and justice, which he incarnated in his person and teachings. Thus, he will want us to vote for national leaders who are imbued with moral integrity and are genuinely committed to the common-good of God’s people, especially the poor. Moreover, such candidates must also possess winnability on the national level. Provided the voters are really sincere and honest in their desire for our country’s welfare then, we can really trust in that valid principle: “Vox populi, vox Dei.” The voice of the people represents the voice of God. We know this to be true, not only in times of elections, but also in times of serious crisis, as we experienced in Edsa I, 1986.

Today is the last day of our nine-day novena preceding the elections. Let us continue to pray the major part of that novena:

“We turn to You, then, Lord, at this crucial time, when our local and national elections are about to take place, and we beg You, for our people and our nation, and for ourselves:

…that You may enlighten our minds and guide our consciences, ever to place the common good of our nation and our people, especially the good of those who are poor and have less in life, above all other lesser interests; that those we vote for will be those who will strive to serve our people’s interests, and not their own, above everything else; that they be those who will seek to make Your Will and Your Purposes truly present and operative in the governance of our society and in the working out of true solidarity and peace among our people; that they will be firmly dedicated to the true Christian ‘culture of life’; that they will never sacrifice truth and justice to the pursuit of gain and their narrow self-interest through lying, corruption and greed;

…that You may purify the spirit in all those charged with the due realization of these elections, so that they will fulfill their tasks and duties in total obedience to the laws of our land, with complete integrity, honesty and transparency, seeking only that the will of our people and their free and rightful voice may truly express Your voice for us;

…that the efforts of those who for their own interests seek to frustrate the full and honest exercise of our people’s right and duty in the electoral processes, be thoroughly thwarted by the vigilance, steadfastness and courage of those who will uphold, defend and guard our democracy and our democratic freedoms with conscience, integrity and their rightful might.”

For his part, Bishop Nereo Odchimar, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), issued an urgent pastoral letter and addressed to all the faithful and fellow-citizens of our country. He first described the crucial situation we are suffering from, and our challenge as God’s people to respond to this crisis.

“No one will deny we stand at a crucial moment of transition. The country is in a critical situation; the need of true moral and social transformation is universally felt; in the erosion of moral values; in truly widespread corruption and dishonesty all around us; in the decline of integrity of conduct in so many of our private and public institutions. Poverty is ever growing; the gap between rich and poor so obviously widening. Millions have to go abroad to find jobs. Divisions and insurgencies persist and worsen. Much reform and change is needed. The elections provide a means for our people to take strong and decisive steps toward urgent renewal, toward changes that all are crying out for toward hope!”

He ends by appealing to all of us:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and all our fellow-citizens of good will who truly love our country: let us be one in praying and one in working with all our minds and hearts and hands toward bringing about the integrally free and honest elections we all desire. In this crucial hour, let us be one in self-sacrifice and in hope for our great people, and our beloved land. God be with us all.”

To love God is to love our country, for this is God’s country. To love God is to love our fellow-Filipinos, for they are God’s people.

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