By Frank Lesko, Coordinator of Justice and Peace

The readings today struggle with the dark side of human nature.  The wicked set a trap for the just in the first reading.  James discusses the destructive effects of “jealousy and selfish ambition.”  The disciples in the Gospel debate about who is the greatest among them.

The insights of modern psychology can help us take a more sympathetic look at this kind of human sinfulness.  The sins and the damage they cause are real, but we may be able to see the sinner in a more compassionate light.  Underneath all that envy and greed is perhaps a wounded heart of fear.  Perhaps someone does not truly believe in their own dignity as God made them.  Perhaps too many layers of woundedness provide an obstacle to just see the promise that Jesus talks about.

Were the disciples selfishly focused on pride?  Or were these the thoughts of those who need the outside affirmation of status and prestige to feel good about themselves?  Jesus keeps telling the disciples that this is not the right path.  It is the Lord who upholds our lives, as the Psalm today celebrates.  It is not in earthly honors or status.  We don’t have to always be right; we don’t have to always be at the front of the line.  God has already said that we are made with dignity as we are and that the source of our happiness is with God alone.

This is a thought we can carry into this contentious political season.  Please consider the Franciscan Pledge of Civility in Discourse on the sidebar, brought to us by the Franciscan Action Network.  It is easy to think that our choice this election season is a single option between two candidates for President.  We have many more choices than that.  We can choose to bring a calm, loving presence into all the fireside chats, dinnertime discussions and heated debates at the water cooler at work.

Consider taking the pledge and applying it your life.  It is challenging, but it can be a great way to bring our faith into our relationships with family, friends and colleagues.  It calls us to respect the dignity of all people, even those with whom we disagree.  It calls us to be a presence to step-down tension rather than escalate it.  It calls us to see all in these debates and arguments opportunities for growth and healing.

In this, our faith can shine a bright light this election season.  It is not just about who or what we vote for but how we conduct ourselves this political season.